Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
Monteith v. Monteith
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court declining Patricia Monteith's request to register in Maine a child support order issued in Maryland against George Monteith as to the parties' four children, holding that the district court did not err.In 2002, Patricia and George were divorced in Maine by a decision requiring George to pay child support to Patricia. Patricia and the children subsequently moved to Maryland. Ten years after the divorce, Patricia initiated a proceeding in Maryland seeking modification of the Maine child support order. The Maryland modification proceedings culminated in the entry of an agreed-to modified child support order. The district court vacated the registration of the Maryland order, concluding that the order was void ab initio based on the parties' failure to file the required consents in Maine to the Maryland court's exercise of jurisdiction. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the parties' failure to file consents pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 19-A, 2965(2)(A) deprived the Maryland court of subject matter jurisdiction to modify Maine's 2002 support order, rendering the Maryland order void ab initio. View "Monteith v. Monteith" on Justia Law
In re Children of Kacee S.
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court denying Mother's second motion for relief from the judgment of the district court terminating her parental rights to her four children, holding that Mother made a prima facie showing that she received ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial phase and post-judgment phase of the case.Mother did not appear for the termination hearing, and trial counsel was also absent when the hearing began. After Mother's parental rights were terminated trial counsel moved to withdraw from the case, and interim counsel was appointed to represent Mother. Appellate counsel filed a Rule 60(b) motion for relief of judgment, alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel and interim counsel. The trial court denied the motion as untimely. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) Mother made a prima facie showing of ineffective assistance of counsel at both the trial phase of the case and the post-judgment phase; and (2) Mother's Rule 60(b) motion was both proper and timely in light of the extraordinary circumstances presented in this case. View "In re Children of Kacee S." on Justia Law
Low v. Low
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the divorce judgment entered by the district court granting primary residence of the parties' son to Mother, who intended to relocate to Texas, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding primary residence to Mother.Mother, who the court found to have always been the primary caregiver for the child, had no family in Maine, and her primary reason for moving to Texas was that she had family support there. The court found that it was in the child's best interest to remain in the primary custodial care of Mother even if she moved to Texas. Father appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, given the court's supported findings, there was no abuse if discretion in awarding primary residence to Mother. View "Low v. Low" on Justia Law
In re Adoption by Tamra M.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the probate court denying Mother's petition for termination of the parental rights of Father, which she filed in conjunction with her petition for adoption pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 18-C, 9-204(1), holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.On appeal, Mother argued that the probate court failed properly to interpret the newly revised probate statute and that the court should have entered a default judgment terminating Father's parental rights when he failed to appear. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the probate court correctly interpreted Me. Rev. Stat. 18-C, 9-204(1); and (2) the probate court properly concluded that it lacked authority to terminate Father's parental rights. View "In re Adoption by Tamra M." on Justia Law
Atkinson v. Capoldo
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the district court denying Mother's motion to modify the parties' parental rights and responsibilities as to the parties' two children, holding that the matter must be remanded for further findings.Mother and Father were divorced in New Hampshire. Later, the Maine District Court granted Father's request for registration of the child custody and support provisions of the parties' New Hampshire divorce judgment. Mother subsequently filed a motion to modify, seeking sole parental rights and responsibilities. The court denied the motion. Father subsequently filed a motion to modify parental rights and responsibilities. The parties agreed to a stipulated judgment, which the court entered. The court then denied Father's motion for attorney fees. Father appealed, asserting that the court abused its discretion in denying Mothers motion without an explanation. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the judgment denying Father's motions for attorney fees and for further findings of fact and remanded for reconsideration of Father's motion for attorney fees, holding that it was unclear whether the court found facts sufficient to support its ultimate determination. View "Atkinson v. Capoldo" on Justia Law
Guardianship by Joseph W.
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the probate court ordering that a sixteen-year-old minor, who had been residing with his mother and his siblings in Mississippi for over a year, would start living with his grandparents in Maine one week after the order was issued, holding that the court did not have the authority to enter the order.The minor child's grandparents petitioned the probate court for full guardianship of the child. The grandparents also separately moved for appointment as guardians on an emergency basis. The court eventually issued a document entitled "Consent Order" providing that the petition for guardianship be continued. The mother filed an emergency motion to vacate the consent order and to dismiss the guardianship request, asserting that the court lacked jurisdiction over the case. The court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that the court did not have the authority to grant the requested relief and should have granted the mother's motion to dismiss. View "Guardianship by Joseph W." on Justia Law
Doe v. Hills-Pettitt
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing with prejudice a complaint for protection from abuse that Plaintiff brought on behalf of her three minor children against the children's father (Father), holding that due process did not require that the court dismiss this matter with prejudice.After Plaintiff filed her complaint for protection from abuse on behalf of her children, Father was arrested. Father's bail conditions prohibited contact between Father and the children. Plaintiff moved to dismiss the complaint without prejudice given that Father's bail conditions protected the children. The court denied Plaintiff's motion and dismissed the case with prejudice, concluding that it did not have the discretion to grant Plaintiff's motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that the court erred as a matter of law when it determined that due process and Me. Rev. Stat. 4006(1) required it to either hold the hearing as scheduled or dismiss the complaint with prejudice and that, pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2), the court had the authority and discretion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice. View "Doe v. Hills-Pettitt" on Justia Law
Lovell v. Lovell
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the divorce judgment entered by the district court, holding that district court did not err in its property distribution between the parties.On appeal, Dorothy Lovell argued (1) the district court erred when it determined that Paul Lovell was not judicially estopped from arguing that a retirement account was marital property, despite a contrary provision in a previous divorce judgment; (2) she received insufficient notice of the district court's intention to reevaluation the distribution of the entire marital estate; and (3) the district court committed obvious error when it determined that part of the retirement account was marital property. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the doctrine of judicial estoppel did not apply here; (2) Dorothy's due process argument was waived; and (3) the district court did not err in its property distribution. View "Lovell v. Lovell" on Justia Law
Doe v. Forino
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court entering a protection form abuse order against Mark Forino and in favor of Forino and Pat Doe's two children after a hearing on Doe's complaint for protection from abuse, holding that the district court did not err.On appeal, Forino argued that the district court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss Doe's complaint on res judicata grounds and his motion in limine to exclude evidence relating to allegations in Doe's previous complaint against him for protection from abuse. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed after emphasizing the need for caution in applying res judicata in cases regarding family matters, holding that res judicata did not bar Doe's second complaint. View "Doe v. Forino" on Justia Law
Quirk v. Quirk
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding almost $400,000 in this action to enforce a divorce judgment, holding that the trial court's factual findings were supported by competent evidence.In 2018, Frances Quirk filed a motion to enforce her divorce judgment from 1973. Quirk alleged that John Quirk, her ex-husband, was obligated to pay her forty-five dollars weekly in spousal support and owed her $97,875 in arrears. John asserted laches as an affirmative defense. The court awarded Frances spousal support, interest, and attorney fees, finding that John had not made payments since 1977, that Frances had not pursued the payments because of John's threatening behavior, and that John had not been prejudiced by Frances's delay in enforcing the obligation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) John's laches defense failed; (2) the court did not abuse its discretion by awarding the full amount of post-judgment interest to Frances; (3) the statutory presumption of satisfaction was overcome in this case; and (4) the court did not abuse its discretion by awarding Frances all of her attorney fees. View "Quirk v. Quirk" on Justia Law