Parental Rights In Maine

A separation from your partner or spouse is never easy.  One of the most common questions parents have when separating is, “what will happen with the children?”

In Maine, the courts use the “Best Interest of the Child” standard to determine the child’s residence, and parent-child contact.  The Best Interest standard does not favor either parent, and instead balances all the relevant factors to determine what is best for the child. In fact, the court favors continued parent-child contact with both parents, and encourages shared parental rights and responsibilities.

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Maine statute 19-A §1653(3) states, first and foremost, the court considers the safety and well-being of the child.  The court also considers the following factors:  (A) the age of the child; (B) the relationship of the child with the child’s parents and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s welfare; (C) the preference of the child (if old enough); (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 parents to allow and encourage frequent continuing contact between the child and the other parent; (I) the capacity of each parent to cooperate in child care; (J) methods for assisting parental cooperation and resolving disputes and each parents 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; (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; whether the child is beast-fed; (P) the existence of a parent, or household members, conviction for a sex offense; (Q) and whether allocation of some or all of parental rights and responsibilities would best support the child’s safety and well-being.

As you can see, there are many factors that the court considers when determining what is in the best interest of the child. However, the court may not consider one parent over the other based on their gender or the gender of the child. 19-A §1653(4).  Fathers, don’t automatically assume the mother is going to get sole parental rights and responsibilities.  And likewise, mothers, don’t assume you will automatically get everything you want without a fight.  This is where it helps to have an experienced family law attorney on your side to advocate for your interests.

It is also important to note that the court may not take into consideration the fact that one parent has left the family home, if the departing parent has been physically harmed or seriously threatened with physical harm by the other parent and that threat of harm was causally related to the departure; or when one parent left the family home by mutual agreement, or at the request or insistence of the other parent. 19-A §1653(5).

Separating from your partner or spouse with children involved is not easy.  Don’t just hope for the best.  Contact Attorney Eric Thistle today to schedule a free consultation.

 

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about Maine law. This article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

Maine Parental Discipline Laws

With social norms changing by the day, are parents in Maine still allowed to discipline their children with physical force?

Under Maine law, the answer is yes, as long as it’s a “reasonable degree of force.”

Maine statute 17-A §106(1) states, “A parent, foster parent, guardian or other similar person responsible for the long term general care and welfare of a child is justified in using a reasonable degree of force against that child when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes it necessary to prevent or punish the child’s misconduct.”

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“Reasonable degree of force” is an objective standard. To constitute a reasonable degree of force, the physical force applied to the child may result in no more than transient discomfort or minor temporary marks on that child. M.R.S.A 17-A §106(2).

First, the parent or guardian needs to reasonably believe it necessary to use physical force.  A light spanking is much different than a slap across the face.  The reasonableness of the parent’s belief as to the necessity of force is measured by whether that belief grossly deviated from what a reasonable, prudent person would believe necessary under similar circumstances.  State v. York, 766 A.2d 570 (2001).

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Second, the force must only cause short-lived discomfort and minor temporary marks.  Again, a light spanking, as opposed to a slap across the face, will cause different degrees of pain and marks.  The parent must maintain reasonable control over the outcome or physical consequences to the child so that the force used is designed to prevent or punish misbehavior. Id.  Whether the marks and/or discomfort received by the child are minor and temporary is a very fact specific analysis.  Courts have found that bruising on the head that “lasted a ‘day or two’” and “miss[ing] school the following day” is enough for the State to prove that the force applied caused more than transient discomfort or minor temporary marks. State v. Treadway, 103 A. 3d 1026 (2014).

If you find yourself in a situation where you have been charged with Domestic Violence Assault, or Endangering the Welfare of a Child, don’t delay, contact Attorney Eric Thistle today for a free consultation.  The sooner an attorney is involved, the more likely you are to get the outcome you desire.