Renato J. Maldini
Helen G. Maldini
Argued May 13, 2015
Vacated and remanded with directions to dismiss.
Shaines & McEachern, P.A., of Portsmouth ( Robert A. Shaines and Jacob J.B. Marvelley on the brief, and Mr. Marvelley orally), for the plaintiff.
McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, Professional Association, of Manchester ( Peter D. Anderson and Amy M. Goodridge on the brief, and Mr. Anderson orally), for the defendant.
LYNN, J. DALIANIS, C.J., and HICKS, CONBOY, and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.
The plaintiff, Renato J. Maldini, appeals an order of the Superior Court ( Delker, J.) granting summary judgment to the defendant, Helen G. Maldini, on the plaintiff's action to enforce the divorced couple's contract regarding the allocation of joint personal income tax liability. We vacate and remand with instructions to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.
The record supports the following facts. The parties were married in 1985, and the defendant filed for divorce in the family division in late September 2007. As relevant here, the parties filed joint personal income tax returns for the tax years 2004, 2005, and 2006, and filed separately for the tax year 2007. During their divorce mediation, the parties recognized that tax liabilities might result from returns they jointly filed while married. The parties therefore entered into a separate " side agreement" on October 6, 2008, to allocate any yet-to-be-assessed tax liabilities for their joint tax returns in the event of an audit. This agreement states, in pertinent part:
The parties shall be equally responsible for personal tax liabilities for joint personal tax returns filed by the parties, except that Helen shall not be responsible should liability be the result of the audit of tax returns filed by Renato after January 1, 2008, in which event Renato shall be responsible for all such taxes, penalties, and interest.
The agreement was signed by the parties and their attorneys. The parties did not notify the family division about the side agreement, even though it was formed contemporaneously with the divorce proceedings, and the court thus did not consider the agreement in dividing the marital estate.
Following the parties' divorce, the plaintiff was audited and found to have a delinquent federal tax obligation in excess of $900,000. As a result, he was prosecuted criminally and pleaded guilty to multiple counts of federal tax evasion. After serving his criminal sentence, the plaintiff filed a breach of contract action in superior court seeking to enforce the parties' side agreement and recover the defendant's share of the parties' joint tax liability. In the alternative, the plaintiff sought recovery under an unjust enrichment theory. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plain language of the agreement made the plaintiff responsible for the entire tax debt. The plaintiff objected, asserting ...