Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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