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In this divorce proceeding, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the district court’s child support order but affirmed the divorce judgment in all other respects, holding that the record did not support the factors used by the court for a downward deviation from Father’s presumptive child support obligation and did not support the court’s determination that the presumptive amounts of child support as calculated pursuant to the child support guidelines, see Me. Rev. Stat. 19-A, 2006, were inequitable or unjust. The Court further held (1) the court did not abuse its discretion in its award of spousal support; and (2) the court did not abuse its discretion by declining to award attorney fees beyond those provided through an interim order. The First Circuit remanded for entry of a child support order pursuant to the guidelines and otherwise affirmed. View "Sullivan v. George" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Frank Deede’s motion to reduce the amount he owed Kerry Wallace, his former wife, pursuant to the terms of the parties’ divorce settlement agreement and the district court’s subsequent contempt orders, holding that the district court acted well within its equitable power and sound discretion when it denied Frank’s motion to modify amount due. Frank’s motion to modify amount due was based on Frank’s assertion that some of the underlying debt was forgiven. The district court denied the motion, finding that Frank had failed to prove that the amount due was incorrect or that Frank had established that he should be given credit against Bank of America debt. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Frank’s motion to modify amount due; and (2) Kerry was entitled to an award of fees and costs because Frank failed to present a cogent argument on appeal. View "Deede v. Deede" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether allowing a child to remain indefinitely in the custody of a third party, without termination of the parents’ parental rights, constitutes a proper exercise of judicial discretion consistent with the pertinent provisions of the Family Law Article. The Court of Appeals held that the Family Law Article allows for such discretionary exercise so long as the decision is grounded in statutory requirements and is supported by the record, and pursuit of the child’s best interest remains the overarching goal involving termination of parental rights. The Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the juvenile court in this case, holding (1) the juvenile court did not err in declining to terminate Father’s parental rights because a rational finding existed that a continued relationship with Father served the child’s best interest even where complete custodial reunification was not apparent; and (2) regarding Mother, the juvenile court’s determination that a continued parental relationship served the child’s best interest lack consideration of the relevant statutory considerations found in Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law 5-323. View "In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E." on Justia Law

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Father Mar-Rea Terino appealed the family court’s denial of his request to include a mechanism in his divorce decree for revisiting parent-child contact for his two-year-old child as the child got older, particularly as the child reached school age. Father also argued the family court erred in failing to address various proposals in his parenting plan. The Vermont Supreme Court found trial court may anticipate that a parent-child contact schedule, which was developed specifically to meet present needs that the child will predictably outgrow, may be ill suited to the child’s best interests at an identified future time. In such cases, the trial court cannot prejudge the child’s best interests at that future time. The court may, however, establish the expectation that the parties will revisit the schedule, through their own negotiation or mediation if necessary, to ensure that it meets the child’s bests interests in that predictable next stage of a child’s life. The parties’ failure to reach an agreement at that time may be an unanticipated change of circumstances. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded courts have the discretion to include such a provision, but should do so sparingly and with an articulated rationale. On remand, the trial court was not bound to exercise its discretion to include a provision of the sort described by the father in his appeal. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in failing to specifically address the various proposals in father’s proposed parenting plan. Finally, although the trial court had the discretion to incorporate provisions regarding dispute resolution between mother and father, it was not required to do so. If, on remand, the trial court elected to address the matter, it may do so, but the Supreme Court concluded its silence on this question did not amount to an abuse of discretion. View "Terino v. Bleeks" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of petitioner in an action under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act to recover fees and costs. The court held that respondent failed to establish under the Act that an award of necessary expenses could be clearly inappropriate. In this case, the record developed on the merits of the wrongful removal petition was replete with evidence contradicting respondent's good faith argument. Therefore, the court affirmed the award of attorney fees, costs and expenses in the total amount of $89,490.26. View "Rath v. Marcoski" on Justia Law

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Gregory and Patricia Gordon were divorced by decree; the decree divided the marital estate. One of the largest components of the marital estate was a retirement medical benefit earned by Patricia during the marriage through her employment with the State of Alaska. The superior court found that the benefit was entirely marital, but the court concluded that including the full value of the benefit in the marital estate (which the court determined should be divided 50/50) would result in a “windfall” to Gregory. The court therefore applied “the coverture fraction as if [Patricia] had remained working for the State” - even though Patricia had in fact quit her job with the State during the marriage. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with Gregory’s argument that the court erred in applying this adjusted coverture fraction. "The superior court should have characterized the retirement medical benefit as marital or separate in accordance with the actual coverture fraction, valued the benefit at its full value, and divided the marital estate - including the retirement medical benefit - between the parties according to the statutory equitable factors." The Court therefore reversed the superior court’s equitable distribution of the marital estate and remanded for further consideration. View "Gordon v. Gordon" on Justia Law

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At the time of separation, Kelly and Rachael Brennan controlled substantial assets, including a successful fishing business, Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) that Kelly obtained prior to his marriage to Rachael, and a large home in Halibut Cove. The court ordered Kelly to pay $5,000 per month as interim spousal support. After trial, the superior court determined that the IFQs had become marital property through transmutation, and it divided most of the marital estate 50/50. The property division included the proceeds from two post-separation sales of IFQs; the court also awarded Rachael half the gross proceeds from the post-trial sale of the couple’s fishing vessel. Kelly appealed, arguing the IFQs were his separate property not subject to division; he also challenged several other aspects of the court’s property division, arguing that the court abused its discretion in failing to account for various tax liabilities, payments, alleged damage to marital property, and other factors that he contends unfairly favored Rachael. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court applied the wrong legal standard to its transmutation analysis regarding the IFQs, and therefore reversed the determination that the IFQs were marital property, and reversed the award to Rachael of proceeds from post-separation IFQ sales. The Court remanded for the superior court to reconsider these issues as well as the overall equitable property distribution, and to explain its reasoning for awarding Rachael gross rather than net proceeds from the sale of the fishing vessel. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Brennan v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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Rowena Weathers (mother) appealed the superior court’s custody modification order awarding Dennis Weathers (father) physical custody of their daughter 59% of the year. Previously, pursuant to the parties’ divorce settlement agreement, the mother had been awarded primary physical custody in large part because the father’s employment required him to work overseas most of the year. After the father was retired by his employer due to a downturn in the oil market, he unilaterally took custody and refused to allow the mother to have custody of their daughter except for very limited visitation. The mother moved to modify custody to a 50/50 basis. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court’s custody award was an abuse of discretion because it gave disproportionate weight to grandparent involvement as a factor favoring the father while failing to weigh against the father the statutory best interests factor regarding the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent. Accordingly, the Court reversed the custody award and remanded to the superior court. View "Weathers v. Weathers" on Justia Law

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The superior court awarded custody of a child to her maternal grandmother. When the father later moved for a modification of custody, the court denied the motion on the ground that there had been no substantial change in circumstances. On appeal the father argued he should not have been required to show a substantial change in circumstances because the award of custody to the grandmother had been only temporary and he remained entitled to the parental preference. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court’s oral remarks and written order granting custody to the grandmother, when read together, indicated an intent that there would also be a transitional period during which the parties would see how the child adapted to spending more time with her father, leaving open the possibility that the transition would result in permanent custody with the father. Therefore, the Court concluded that in the absence of a grant of permanent custody to the grandmother, the father remained entitled to the parental preference, and the grandmother continued to have the burden of proving that the preference should be overcome. View "Daves v. McKinley" on Justia Law

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Sarah and Sean Whalen married in May 2004 and had three children. They separated in 2012, divorced in 2015. Sarah had petitioned for multiple domestic violence protective orders against Sean, some of which had been granted. In November 2015 Sarah filed a petition for a long-term domestic violence protective order against Sean. The superior court ruled that she could not rely on Sean’s past history of domestic violence alone to obtain a new protective order but had to show that Sean had committed a new incident of domestic violence since the previous protective order. The court also found that Sarah had not proved any new incident and denied her petition. Sarah appealed, arguing that she should be allowed to rely on past incidents of domestic violence that had supported past protective orders to obtain a new protective order. In the alternative she argued there had been a new incident of domestic violence. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s denial of the petition for a domestic violence protective order. View "Whalen v. Whalen" on Justia Law