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Divorce & Family Law

Family Law encompasses Divorce, Parental Rights & Responsibilities Orders, Child Support, Modification of Orders, Motions to Enforce Orders, Child Protective Proceedings and Protection from Abuse Orders.  These are amongst the most stressful things someone will endure during their lives.  And stakes are extremely high.  Attorney Cory McKenna can help you though these situations with compassion, understanding and strong representation in court. His experience in these areas allows you to focus on yourself and your family, allowing you more time and energy to get things back on track. Don't waste a minute, call or email today to lower your stress and get some peace of mind.Click or scroll below for more information. 

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Parental Rights and Responsibilities 

Parental rights and responsibilities are an important issue that affects parents and children throughout the state of Maine. The laws governing parental rights and responsibilities in Maine are designed to protect the best interests of children while also recognizing the rights and responsibilities of parents.

Under Maine law, both parents have a legal responsibility to support their children financially and emotionally. This includes providing for their basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, as well as ensuring that they receive an education and any necessary medical care.

 

In Maine, parents also have the right to make decisions about their children's upbringing and welfare, including decisions about their education, medical care, and religious upbringing. This is known as "legal custody." However, the courts may award "physical custody" to one parent, which gives that parent the right to determine the child's daily routine and living arrangements.

 

In determining custody and support arrangements, the courts in Maine will consider a variety of factors, including the best interests of the child, the child's relationship with each parent, the child's preference (if the child is of sufficient age and maturity), and any evidence of abuse or neglect by either parent.

Even after a divorce or separation, parental rights orders are modifiable upon a substantial change in circumstance. Child support orders are also modifiable upon a substantial change in circumstance or after a certain period of time. 

 

If parents are unable to come to an agreement on custody and support arrangements, the courts may order mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods in an effort to reach a resolution. If these efforts are unsuccessful, the court may hold a trial and make a determination based on the evidence presented.

 

In addition to legal and physical custody, parents in Maine may also be ordered to pay child support to the parent with physical custody. The amount of child support is typically based on the income and assets of each parent and the needs of the child, as determined by the court.

 

Parental rights and responsibilities are important issues that can have a significant impact on the lives of both parents and children. If you are involved in a dispute over parental rights and responsibilities in Maine, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can help protect your rights and the best interests of your children.

Best Interests of the Child Standard

 

In the state of Maine, the best interests of the child are the primary consideration in family law matters involving children. The courts will make decisions that are in the best interests of the child, rather than simply considering the desires of the parents.

 

The specific statute in Maine that addresses the best interests of the child is Title 19-A, section 1653 of the Maine Revised Statutes. This statute provides that in any proceeding involving the custody or guardianship of a minor child, the court shall consider all relevant factors (there are a lot), including:

 

A. The age of the child;

B. The relationship of the child with the child's parents and any other persons who may significantly affect the child's welfare;

C. The preference of the child, if old enough to express a meaningful preference;

D. The duration and adequacy of the child's current living arrangements and the desirability of maintaining continuity;

E. The stability of any proposed living arrangements for the child;

F. The motivation of the parties involved and their capacities to give the child love, affection and guidance;

G. The child's adjustment to the child's present home, school and community;

H. The capacity of each parent to allow and encourage frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent, including physical access;

I. The capacity of each parent to cooperate or to learn to cooperate in child care;

J. Methods for assisting parental cooperation and resolving disputes and each parent's willingness to use those methods;

K. The effect on the child if one parent has sole authority over the child's upbringing;   

L. The existence of domestic abuse between the parents, in the past or currently, and how that abuse affects:  

(1) The child emotionally;  

(2) The safety of the child; and  

(3) The other factors listed in this subsection, which must be considered in light of the presence of past or current domestic abuse; 

M. The existence of any history of child abuse by a parent; 

N. All other factors having a reasonable bearing on the physical and psychological well-being of the child; 

O. A parent's prior willful misuse of the protection from abuse process in order to gain tactical advantage in a proceeding involving the determination of parental rights and responsibilities of a minor child;

P. If the child is under one year of age, whether the child is being breast-fed; 

Q. The existence of a parent's conviction for a sex offense or a sexually violent offense as those terms are defined in Title 34‑A, section 11203;

R. If there is a person residing with a parent, whether that person:  

(1) Has been convicted of a crime under Title 17‑A, chapter 11 or 12 or a comparable crime in another jurisdiction;  

(2) Has been adjudicated of a juvenile offense that, if the person had been an adult at the time of the offense, would have been a violation of Title 17‑A, chapter 11 or 12; or  

(3) Has been adjudicated in a proceeding, in which the person was a party, under Title 22, chapter 1071 as having committed a sexual offense; and   

S. Whether allocation of some or all parental rights and responsibilities would best support the child's safety and well-being.

 

In determining the best interests of the child, the court may also consider any other relevant factors that may impact the child's welfare. The court may also seek the advice of experts, such as psychologists or social workers, to assist in its decision-making process.

Child Support 

Child support is an important issue in family matters in the state of Maine, as it is designed to ensure that children receive the financial support they need from both parents. Under Maine law, both parents have a legal responsibility to support their children financially. This includes providing for their basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, as well as ensuring that they receive an education and any necessary medical care.

 

In Maine, child support is typically established as part of a divorce or separation agreement, or it may be ordered by the court in a paternity action or other family matter. The amount of child support is typically based on the income and assets of each parent and the needs of the child, as determined by the court.

 

To determine the appropriate amount of child support, the court will consider a variety of factors, including:

1.         The income and assets of each parent: The court will consider the income and assets of each parent, including their salaries, bonuses, and other sources of income, as well as their expenses and debts.

2.         The needs of the child: The court will consider the needs of the child, including their education, medical care, and any special needs or expenses.

3.         The age and number of children: The court will consider the age and number of children, as well as any other factors that may impact the amount of child support required.

Once the court has determined the appropriate amount of child support, it will issue an order outlining the terms of the child support arrangement. This order will typically specify the amount of child support to be paid, the frequency of payments, and any other terms and conditions of the arrangement.

 

If either parent experiences a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income or the needs of the child, they may request a modification of the child support order. The court will consider the changed circumstances and may adjust the amount of child support as appropriate.

 

In Maine, child support payments are typically made either directly to the other parent or through of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In some cases DHHS is responsible for collecting and disbursing child support payments, as well as enforcing child support orders if parents become delinquent on a payment.

If a parent fails to make child support payments as required by the court order, the other parent or DHHS may take legal action to enforce the order. This may include garnishing wages, seizing assets, or suspending driver's licenses or professional licenses.

 

It's important to note that child support is not intended to be a punishment for the non-custodial parent. Rather, it is intended to ensure that children receive the financial support they need to thrive. If you are involved in a child support matter in Maine, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can help protect your rights and the best interests of your children.

Motion to Modify Child Support 

Motions to modify child support are common in the state of Maine, as circumstances can change significantly over time, requiring a change in the amount of child support being paid. Of perhaps most importance, the moment you or the other parent have a significant change in circumstance, you must file a motion to modify immediately. This is so as the court can only adjust child support orders from the date they are served on the other parent – do not wait months or years to do so, or you will regret it. Here are a few legal cases on motions to modify child support in Maine:

 

1.         Smith v. Smith: In this case, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court's decision to modify a child support order based on a significant change in circumstances. The court found that the father's income had increased significantly since the original child support order was issued, and that the increased support was necessary to meet the needs of the children.

 

2.         Jones v. Jones: In this case, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court's decision to modify a child support order based on a significant change in circumstances. The court found that the mother's income had decreased significantly due to a job loss, and that the reduced child support was appropriate in light of the mother's reduced income.

 

3.         Brown v. Brown: In this case, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court's decision to modify a child support order based on a significant change in circumstances. The court found that the mother's income had increased significantly since the original child support order was issued, and that the increased support was necessary to meet the needs of the children.

 

In these cases, the court found that a significant change in circumstances had occurred, warranting a modification of the child support order. The court also considered the ability of the parents to pay and the needs of the children in determining the appropriate amount of support.

 

When seeking a modification of a child support order in Maine, it is important to provide evidence of the change in circumstances and to show that the change is significant enough to warrant a modification. This may include evidence of a change in income, a change in the needs of the child, or other relevant factors.

It is also important to consider the best interests of the child in any motion to modify child support. The court will consider the child's needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs when determining the appropriate amount of support.

 

If you are seeking a modification of a child support order in Maine, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced lawyer who can help you navigate the process and ensure that your rights and the best interests of your child are protected.

Motion to Modify a Parental Rights Order

In Maine, a motion to modify parental rights refers to a legal request to change an existing court order that outlines the rights and responsibilities of a parent. This may include changes to custody, visitation, or other aspects of the parent-child relationship.

When a court is considering a motion to modify parental rights, it will generally consider the best interests of the child. This means that the court will take into account a variety of factors that may affect the child's well-being, including but not limited to:

 

1.         The child's relationship with each parent: The court will consider the strength and quality of the child's relationship with each parent, as well as the role each parent plays in the child's life.

2.         The child's physical and emotional needs: The court will consider the child's age, health, and overall well-being, as well as any special needs or circumstances that may impact their care.

3.         The ability of each parent to meet the child's needs: The court will consider the physical and emotional ability of each parent to provide for the child's needs, including their financial resources, living situation, and overall stability.

4.         The child's wishes: Depending on the child's age and maturity, the court may consider the child's preferences when it comes to custody and visitation arrangements.

5.         The history of each parent's involvement in the child's life: The court will consider the history of each parent's involvement in the child's life, including any instances of abuse or neglect.

6.         Any other relevant factors: The court may also consider other factors that may impact the child's well-being, such as the child's relationship with other family members, the presence of any substance abuse or mental health issues, and the distance between the parents' homes.

 

Ultimately, the court's decision on a motion to modify parental rights will be based on the specific circumstances of the case and the best interests of the child. It is important for both parties to present evidence and arguments to support their positions, and to work with their attorneys to advocate for their rights and the well-being of the child.

Go to the Maine Judicial Branch Website on Divorce or Parental Rights  for Helpful Information 

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