Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father's parental rights to his child, holding that the district court did not err in determining that Father was parentally unfit and that termination of Father's parental rights was in the best interest of the child. After a hearing, the district court found by clear and convincing evidence that Father was unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy or take responsibility for the child within a time that is reasonably calculated to meet the child’s needs and determined that termination of Father’s rights was in the best interest of the child. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in its findings. View "In re Child of Walter C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father's parental rights to his child, holding that competent record evidence supported the court's findings of parental unfitness and that termination of Father's parental rights was in the child's best interest. After a hearing, the district court concluded that the State had proved by clear and convincing evidence that Father was parentally unfit pursuant to three of the statutory definitions of unfitness and that termination of Father's parental rights was in the best interest of the child. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the court's determinations. View "In re Child of Nathaniel B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the court's findings of parental unfitness and its determination that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the child's best interest. The district court terminated Mother's parental rights on the grounds that Mother was unable to protect the child from jeopardy and was unable to take responsibility for the child in a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs and that termination was in the child's best interest. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the court's findings of parental unfitness and that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the child's best interest. View "In re Child of Rebecca J." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the probate court appointing Donovan C's maternal aunt as his full guardian, holding that the probate court did not erred by finding that Father abandoned the child and did not abuse its discretion by appointing the aunt as a full guardian. After Mother died, the maternal grandfather and maternal aunt filed a petition to be appointed as the child's co-guardians. The probate court found by clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned the child and that it was in the best interest of the child for the maternal aunt to be appointed as his guardian. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the probate court's finding of abandonment; and (2) the probate court did not abuse its discretion in appointing the maternal aunt as a full guardian, as opposed to a limited guardian, without implementing transitional arrangements. View "In re Guardianship of Donovan C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in determining that Mother was unfit and that the termination of her parental rights was in the child's best interest. On appeal, Mother argued, among other things, that the intervention of the Governor's office in the decision of the Department of Health and Human Services to cancel or delay her trial placement violated her equal protection and due process rights. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the court did not commit obvious error or any error of fact or law, whether constitutional or statutory in dimension, when it entered its judgment seven months after the Department's decision on the trial placement; (2) the court did not err in finding that Mother was unable to protect the child from jeopardy and those circumstances were unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs; and (3) the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interest of the child. View "In re Child of Lacy H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court entering a protection from harassment order against Defendant on the complaint of Jane Doe, holding that the court did not err in issuing the protection from harassment order. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in consolidating the hearing on Defendant's motion to dissolve the temporary protection from harassment order and the final hearing on Doe's complaint; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing a scheduling order that limited the time for the consolidated hearing to two hours; and (3) the district court did not err in finding credible the testimony of two witnesses and in finding that Defendant intentionally sought to harass Doe. View "Doe v. Plourde" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment entered by the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child, holding, among other things, that the court did not err in finding that Mother was unfit and that the termination of Mother's parental rights was in the child's best interest. After a termination hearing, the district court terminated Mother's parental rights pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i), (ii), (iv). Mother appealed, arguing, among other things, that the district court erred in finding that she received proper notice of the trial on the termination petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err in holding a trial and entering a judgment upon finding that service was adequate; (2) under the circumstances, the court did not err in finding that the Department of Health and Human Services had complied with its statutory rehabilitation and reunification obligations; and (3) the court did not err in finding three bases of unfitness and in determining that the termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interest of the child. View "In re Child of Haley L." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child and the district court's denial of Mother's motion for relief from that judgment, holding that the court did not err or abuse its discretion. On appeal, Mother challenged the court's parental unfitness and best interest determinations and argued that the court erred in denying her motion for relief based on alleged ineffective assistance of Mother's counsel. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) there was competent evidence to support the court's finding that Mother was parentally unfit, and the court did not commit clear error or abuse its discretion in determining that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the child's best interest; and (2) the evidence supported the court's determination that Mother did not meet her burden to show that she received ineffective assistance of counsel. View "In re Child of Shaina T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father's parental rights to his children pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), holding that the court did not impermissibly consider Father's incarceration in reaching its parental unfitness determination and that Father failed properly to raise his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the termination hearing. Specifically, the Court held (1) the lower court's findings were supported by competent record evidence and, given these findings, the court did not err in finding that Father was unfit; and (2) because Father raised his ineffective representation claim on direct appeal without submitting an affidavit, Father's ineffective representation claim must be denied. View "In re Children of Matthew G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (1)(B)(2)(a)-(b)(i), holding that there was no clear error or abuse of discretion in the court's findings or analysis. On appeal, Mother argued that the court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that she was an unfit parent after determining that she would be unable to protect the child from jeopardy within the statutorily-required timeframe. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the trial court's conclusion that the child had waited long enough for permanency was well supported by the record. View "In re Child of Amey W." on Justia Law