Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Maine Supreme Court
In re Guardianship of Stevens
Zacharia was born to Mother and Father in 2009. Because Mother was transient at the time of Zacharia’s birth, Zacharia began living with Mother’s grandparents, who became temporary guardians of Zacharia. In 2011, Mother filed a petition to terminate the guardianship. After a hearing, the probate court (1) denied Mother’s petition, concluding that Mother was unfit because she was unable to meet Zacharia’s needs; and (2) rejected the guardian ad litem’s and Zacharia’s mental health therapist’s recommendations that transitional efforts be put into place, either upon termination of the guardianship or under a continued guardianship. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the probate court (1) abused its discretion in declining to implement transitional arrangements; and (2) committed clear error in finding Mother unfit because that finding was premised upon the court’s erroneous denial of transitional arrangements. Remanded. View "In re Guardianship of Stevens" on Justia Law
In re M.M.
When Mother and Father divorced, primary custody of M.M. was awarded to Mother. Later, the district court modified the judgment by awarding sole parental rights to Father. Petitioners - Mother’s investigator and three private citizens with no natural or legal relationship to M.M. - subsequently filed a petition for a child protection order seeking to have the district court find that M.M. required protection because of circumstances of jeopardy created by Father. The court dismissed the petition, finding that some of the claims asserted were barred by the doctrine of res judicata, other claims failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and Petitioners lacked standing. The Supreme Court concluded that Petitioner had standing to bring the petition for a child protection order and otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "In re M.M." on Justia Law
Murphy v. Bartlett
In 2011, the district court entered a divorce judgment that ordered Defendant to make certain payments to Plaintiff. Defendant made timely payments until 2012. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for contempt against Defendant. The court district found Defendant delinquent in making payments and held him in contempt. The court committed Defendant to ninety days in jail, suspended, subject to Defendant making each payment specified in the divorce judgment for three years. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the district court’s finding of contempt to the extent the finding was based on Defendant’s past failure to comply with the divorce judgment; but (2) vacated the court’s imposition of coercive imprisonment as a remedial sanction for Defendant’s prospective noncompliance. Remanded. View "Murphy v. Bartlett" on Justia Law
Potila v. Nadeau
The district court entered a divorce judgment awarding shared primary residence of Larry Nadeau and Jessica Potila’s minor children, determining child support, and allocating the dependent income tax exemptions. Nadeau appealed and Potila cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in awarding shared primary residence; (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying Nadeau a deviation from the child support guidelines; and (3) did not err in finding that Potila failed to meet her burden of proving that a portion of the value of the marital residence, owned by Nadeau prior to the marriage, was marital. View "Potila v. Nadeau" on Justia Law
Lesko v. Stanislaw
Mother and Father were married and had a son. After Father was convicted of sexual abuse of girls who had been his piano students, Mother filed for a divorce. The trial court granted the parties a divorce, concluded that Father’s criminal conduct constituted financial misconduct, and divided the parties’ property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) provided findings necessary to support its judgment; (2) did not err as a matter of law in considering Father’s criminal conduct as a relevant factor in arriving at a just division of the parties’ marital estate; and (3) equitably divided the marital property. View "Lesko v. Stanislaw " on Justia Law
Gordon v. Cheskin
After Father and Mother divorced, Mother maintained primary physical custody of the parties’ two daughters, and Father and Mother shared joint legal custody of the girls. Mother later filed a motion to modify the custody order. The trial court granted the motion and eliminated overnight visitation with Father, finding that the girls were inadequately fed after visits with Father, that Father failed to take one daughter’s asthma seriously, and that Father had been “convicted” of offensive touching. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court’s finding that Father had been convicted of a crime was clear error, but the error was harmless; and (2) the trial court’s findings were sufficient to support the result in this case. View "Gordon v. Cheskin" on Justia Law
Brasier v. Preble
In 2006, the district court awarded shared parental rights and responsibilities of the parties' children, with Mother having primary residence. In 2012, Father filed successive motions to enforce and to modify. After a hearing, the district court ruled there had been a substantial change in circumstances and that it was in the children's best interest that their primary residence be changed to Father. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence presented at the hearing was sufficient to establish a substantial change in circumstances justifying a change in the children's primary residence and that the district court did not err in applying the statutory best interest factors in reaching its decision. View "Brasier v. Preble" on Justia Law
Bulkley v. Bulkley
In 2010, the district court issued a divorce judgment awarding Mother and Father shared parental rights and responsibilities of their child and granting Mother primary residence of the child. In 2011, Father filed a motion to modify the divorce judgment, claiming that the child, who had been living in a truck with his mother, had not had a stable living environment following the divorce and that returning him to a living arrangement in the truck could have significant negative effects on the child's well-being. The court granted Father's motion to modify and awarded him primary residence of the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court evaluated the evidence with the best interest of the child in mind, and therefore did not err or abuse its discretion. View "Bulkley v. Bulkley" on Justia Law
In re H.C.
Parents' two young children were removed from their care and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services due to Parents' abuse and neglect. The day before a scheduled contested hearing on the Department's termination petition, Parents appeared in court and represented through counsel that they intended to consent to the termination. After an individual colloquy with each parent, the district court found that Parents had voluntarily and knowingly executed their consent and ordered the termination of their parental rights. Parents appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in terminating Parents' parental rights to their two children, as the court rationally could have found clear and convincing evidence to support its findings that Parents' consents were executed voluntarily and knowingly. View "In re H.C. " on Justia Law
In re A.H.
A.H. was born in 2010 with extreme medical needs. A.H. required hospitalization three times when she was in the care of her parents. Eventually, the Department of Health and Human Services placed the child in a foster home. After being placed in a foster home, A.H. began receiving adequate nutrition and became healthier. Because A.H.'s parents demonstrated that they had limited intellectual capacity and failed to progress in rehabilitation, the Department petitioned for the termination of each parent's parental rights. After a hearing, the district court terminated both parents' parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding (1) the parents were not able to protect A.H. from jeopardy; (2) the parents were unable to take responsibility for A.H. within a time reasonably calculated to meet her needs; and (3) the termination of parental rights and adoption by the foster parents was in A.H.'s best interest. View "In re A.H." on Justia Law