Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the probate court denying Mother's petition to modify or terminate an order of the superior court that transferred custody and guardianship of her child to the child's paternal grandmother and step-grandfather (together, Grandparents), holding that the probate court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.A Connecticut superior court granted the motion filed by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families to transfer custody and guardianship of the child to Grandparents, who lived in New Hampshire. After Mother, the child, and Grandparents had all moved to Maine, Mother filed a petition in the Hancock County Probate Court seeking to register and modify or terminate the Connecticut order. The probate court denied Mother's petition. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order below, holding that the probate court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to consider or adjudicate Mother's petition to modify a guardianship established in Connecticut's equivalent of a child protection matter. View "In re Guardianship by Stacey M." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgments entered by the district court establishing Dawn and James Ostrander as de facto parents of two biological children of Mark Martin and Marylou MacMahan, allocating parental rights and responsibilities and child support among the parties, and amending a divorce judgment between Martin and MacMahan, holding that the judgment amending the divorce judgment was in error.In an agreed-upon divorce judgment, the family court awarded shared parental rights of the twins of MacMahan and Martin to both parties. Later, the Ostranders, with whom the children were living, filed a complaint seeking a determination of de facto parentage, parental rights and responsibilities, and child support. The court concluded that the Ostranders were the de facto parents of the children, decided that parental rights would be shared among the Ostranders, Martin, and MacMahan, and amended some of the divorce judgment's provisions. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment amending the divorce judgment and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err in establishing de facto parentage, parental rights and responsibilities, and child support; and (2) the judgment amending the divorce judgment was inconsistent with the judgment establishing parental rights and responsibilities. View "Martin v. MacMahan" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's and Father's parental rights to their older child and the order finding that Mother's younger child was in jeopardy in her care, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.On appeal, Mother argued that the district court erred in concluding that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C.S. 1901-1963, did not apply to either child, and Father challenged the termination of his parental rights. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err in concluding that the ICWA did not apply to either of Mother's two children; and (2) the court did not err or abuse its discretion by finding at least one ground of parental unfitness and in determining that termination of Father's parental rights was in the best interest of the older child. View "In re Children of Michelle C." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the district court modifying the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities in the divorce judgment in this case, holding that the court abused its discretion in declining to take judicial notice of certain information and failed adequately to explain certain modifications.On appeal, Appellant argued that the court erred in failing to take judicial notice of vaccine information available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and failed to provide an explanation when it changed the contract schedule and allocated final decision-making authority on educational and medical matters to Appellee. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part, holding (1) the court abused its discretion in refusing to take judicial notice; and (2) the court inadequately explained its modifications to the contact schedule and the allocation of decision-making authority. View "Seymour v. Seymour" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the divorce judgment issued in the district court as to child support and affirmed in all other respects, holding that the district court erred in calculating child support.Lawrence Bloom and Annalee Bloom had two children when they divorced. The district court entered a divorce judgment on Annalee's complaint setting forth child support and spousal support and distributing the marital property. Lawrence appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part, holding (1) because the child support worksheets and orders contained multiple errors, the court's child support determination in the amended judgment must be corrected; and (2) the judgment is otherwise affirmed. View "Bloom v. Bloom" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial by the district court of Mother's Me. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion for relief from judgment, holding that the district court did not err.The parties in this case were divorced by a judgment entered in 2012. In 2014, the court entered an order reducing Father's child support obligation. In 2019, after both of the parties' minor children had reached the age of majority, Mother filed a Rule 60(b) motion arguing that Father's earnings had increased after the 2014 child support modification order but that he had failed to provide her with his tax returns or notify her about increases in his earnings, as required by the divorce judgment. The court denied Mother's motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly concluded that it did not have the authority to modify Father's child support obligation retroactively, notwithstanding the unreported increases in his earnings. View "Marks v. Marks" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the district court allocating parental rights and responsibilities concerning the parties' minor child, holding that the district court abused its discretion in requiring that Father bear the full burden of transportation with visits with the child until July 1, 2022.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) there was no competent evidence in the record to support the trial court's finding that it was unreasonable for Father to drive or otherwise share in the child's transportation until July 1, 2022; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to deviate from child support guidelines even given Father's transportation costs; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allocating to Father child contact on the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays each year. View "Emerson v. Laffan" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed as interlocutory Father's appeal from a judicial review order requiring him to return his child to Maine, holding that Father's appeal of the interlocutory order was not permitted.After a hearing to address Father's request for a parental rights and responsibilities order and to perform a judicial review regarding the child's relocation to Florida with Father, the court found that there was no jeopardy as to Father and ordered that the child remain in his custody subject to certain conditions. Father appealed this order. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal, holding that appeal was interlocutory and not authorized under statute. View "In re Child of Nicholas G." on Justia Law

by
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

by
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