Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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In this post-dissolution action, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court granting Appellant's motion to amend a stipulated order, holding that the motion to amend the stipulated order was untimely.After the parties divorced they filed various post-judgment motions. The parties then reached an agreement and presented their stipulations to the court. The court executed a stipulated order without holding a hearing. Appellant later filed a motion to amend the order by inserting a vehicle or serial identification number to each alleged corresponding item of personal property listed in the stipulated order. The district court granted the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order below, holding that amending the stipulated order constituted a substantive change, and therefore, Appellant's motion should have been considered pursuant to Rule 59(e) as a motion to alter or amend the judgment rather than dismissed as untimely. View "Beedle v. Beedle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part and remanded in part the divorce judgment entered by the district court on Husband's complaint, holding that the judgment was improper was to the property division and attorney fees.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) delineation of Wife's employment retirement accounts as marital or nonmarital property must be calculated pursuant to a three-step process for division of property in a divorce matter; (2) the relevant date for determining the marital and nonmarital portions of Husband's retirement accounts was the date of the entry of the divorce judgment; (3) the trial court erred by double counting Wife's Vanguard retirement accounts; and (4) because the property division portion of the judgment must be vacated, the trial court's denial of Wife's request for attorney fees also must be vacated. View "Moran v. Moran" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the interlocutory order of the district court allowing discovery in a protection from abuse action instituted by Pat Doe against Sam Roe and denying in part Doe's request for a discovery protective order pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 26(c), holding that there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) while discovery is not prohibited in protection from abuse proceedings, when it is appropriate or necessary discovery must take place within strict parameters; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Roe had met his burden of showing that justice required discovery on thirteen of his interrogatories. View "Doe v. Roe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and remanded in part a judgment awarding parental rights and responsibilities entered in the district court as to Father's four children with Mother, holding that the court's judgment failed to include a required statement.The judgment in this case granted Mother sole parental rights and responsibilities and primary physical residence and denied Father rights of parent-child contact. The Supreme Court held (1) the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father rights of parent-child contact, and any other error was harmless; and (2) the court's judgment failed to include a required statement governing parental access to records relating to the children. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for the district court to amend the order. View "Mayberry v. Janosky" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order entered by the district court dismissing Grandmother's petition for grandparent visitation for lack of standing, holding that there was no error.Grandmother petitioned against Mother and Father for visitation rights with the three children at issue in this case under the Grandparents and Great-grandparents Visitation Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 19-A, 1801-1806. The district court dismissed the petition for lack of standing, concluding that Grandmother did not prove that she had a sufficient existing relationship with the children. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the court applied the correct standard of proof and that the record did not compel the court to make factual findings in Grandmother's favor. View "Fiske v. Fiske" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the divorce judgment entered by the district court in which the court adopted a referee's determination of the parties' child's primary residence and awarded Kristina Toland marital fees, holding that there was no error.The referee determined that Toland be awarded primary residence of the parties' minor child even if Toland relocates from Maine to Ohio and that Toland be awarded attorney fees. The district court adopted the referee's findings and recommendations. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the referee's findings were not clearly erroneous, nor was the determination based on these findings that the child's best interest would be served by living in Toland in Ohio while maintaining contact with Helge Reimann; and (2) the attorney-fee waiver provision in the parties' premarital agreement was unenforceable as applied to their litigation of parental rights. View "Riemann v. Toland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the divorce judgment entered by the district court that awarded shared parental rights and responsibilities concerning the parties' minor children, holding that the court impermissibly based its determination on hearsay evidence.At issue before the Supreme Court was the admission of testimonial evidence regarding Father's substantiation by the Department of Health and Human Services for sexual abuse of a child. On appeal, Father argued that the evidence regarding his substantiations was inadmissible hearsay and that the evidence prejudiced him. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment below, holding (1) the evidence regarding Father's substantiation was inadmissible hearsay; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "Needham v. Needham" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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