Articles Posted in Family Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Plaintiff was abused by Defendant and granting a two-year extension of a protection from abuse order to Plaintiff. The Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding abuse and extending the original protection from abuse order; (2) the trial court gave Defendant sufficient notice of the issues to be addressed in the hearing on the extension of the original order; and (3) there was sufficient evidence to justify extension of the protection from abuse order for two years, with the addition of prohibitions that by federal law had the effect of prohibiting Defendant from possessing firearms that included an express directive prohibiting his possession of firearms. View "Doe v. Tierney" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding jeopardy as to two of Mother’s children pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4035 and ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to cease reunification efforts pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4041(2)(A-2). The Court held (1) the district court did not err when it concluded that the doctrine of res judicata did not bind the Department to orders issued by the probate court concluding that the children were not in jeopardy; (2) Mother’s due process rights were not violated in this case; and (3) the district court’s findings were supported by competent evidence in the record that could rationally be understood to establish as more likely than not that the children were in circumstances of jeopardy to their health and welfare. View "In re Children of Bethmarie R." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating the parental rights of Father and Mother (together, Parents) to their son pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii). On appeal, Parents challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the district court’s findings of unfitness and best interest and the court’s discretionary determination that termination of parental rights was in the child’s best interest. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the evidence supported the court’s factual findings and discretionary determinations; and (2) the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that termination of Parents’ parental rights was in the child’s best interest. View "In re Child of Everett S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Clear and convincing evidence supported the district court’s finding that Mother was unfit as a parent, and the district court acted within its discretion in determining that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. The district court terminated Mother’s parental rights to her child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2)(a), and (b)(i)-(ii). On appeal, Mother challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the lower court’s findings of parental unfitness and argued that the court was required to order additional time for her to attempt to rehabilitate herself and reunify with the child. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the court’s findings were supported by competent evidence in the record, and the court properly exercised its discretion in this case. View "In re Child of Amber L." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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A Department of Health and Human Services hearing officer erred in concluding that a child support ordered entered in James Fagone’s divorce from Kristin Fagone authorized the Department’s Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery to adjust the amount of child support owed, without a modification of the court order, upon the oldest of the parties’ three children reaching age eighteen. The superior court vacated the hearing officer’s decision, concluding that the child support order entered upon the Fagones’ divorce was not self-adjusting. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court correctly concluded that the order required the payment of support in the amount specified unless and until ordered otherwise and that the hearing officer erred in calculating a reduced amount based on the terms of the existing child support order. View "Department of Health and Human Services v. Fagone" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court clarified the circumstances in which a court order that anticipates a change in child support upon the occurrence of future events will be self-effectuating. In 2007, Todd Wood and Shelly Higgins divorced. The judgment required Todd Wood to pay child support, and the child support order stated that the child support obligation shall continue for each child until that child reaches the age of eighteen. In 2009, the oldest child turned eighteen, but Wood continued to pay child support in the amount ordered until 2015 when he filed motions to modify and for determination of overpayment. The magistrate entered modified child support orders but concluded that Wood could not recover any overpayment for child support paid prior to his service of the motion to modify. Wood appealed, arguing that he was entitled to recoup an overpayment of child support. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court’s order requiring Todd to pay child support did not contain a self-effectuating provision immediately reducing Wood’s child support payments upon his oldest child reaching age eighteen; and (2) neither administrative collateral estoppel nor administrative equitable estoppel was properly raised. View "Higgins v. Wood" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family 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) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i),(iv), holding that the evidence supported the court’s findings and discretionary determinations. On appeal, Mother challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the district court’s judgment, specifically challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to rehabilitate her and reunify her with her child. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the record (1) supported the court’s finding of at least one ground of unfitness as to Mother, and (2) showed that, despite the Department’s efforts at rehabilitating and reunifying the family, Mother was still unsuccessful at reunifying with her child. View "In re Child of Lindsay D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding John McNutt (Dan) in contempt of the parties’ earlier divorce judgment and increasing his spousal support obligation to Janice McNutt. On appeal, Dan argued that the court erred by (1) finding that he was now able to pay increased spousal support and ordering a temporary increase of that support to $1,750 each month, and (2) not addressing an ambiguity in the divorce judgment and imposing a lien in Janice’s favor, which he alleged rendered him unable to purge his contempt. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) ample competent evidence in the record supported the court’s findings that Dan was in contempt of the property disposition provisions of the divorce judgment and that he received a substantial increase in income due to his disregard of the court’s order to sell or refinance two marital rental properties; and (2) the lien was consistent with the terms of the divorce judgment. View "McNutt v. McNutt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Parents’ parental rights to their two children and denying their motions to reopen the record and for relief from judgment. On appeal, Parents asserted that the district court erred by denying their motion to reopen the evidence and by denying their motion under Me. R. Civ. P. 60(b). The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court had no discretion to reopen the evidence as to certain testimony, and the court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Parents’ motion to reopen to present evidence that Parents claimed was relevant to the issues of parental unfitness and the children’s best interests; and (2) the court did not err by determining that, at an earlier termination hearing, Mother was not prejudiced by her attorney’s ineffective representation and that Father’s counsel’s performance was not deficient in the first place. View "In re Children of Jeremy A." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant, after a jury trial, of domestic violence assault and violating a condition of release, holding that certain errors in the jury instructions constituted obvious error. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred by failing fully to instruct the jury on the State’s burden to disprove the statutory justifications Defendant produced in defense of the charges or on the consequences of the State’s failure to meet that burden. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed that the trial court’s instructions were deficient, holding that the errors in the jury instructions were highly prejudicial, tending to produce manifest injustice. View "State v. Villacci" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law