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Dalton v. Dalton

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

August 19, 2014

TIMOTHY G. DALTON
v.
SARAH H. DALTON

Submitted On Briefs July 1, 2014

As Corrected November 13, 2014.

Page 724

On the briefs:

Beth Alison Maloney, Esq., Kennebunkport, for appellant Sarah H. Dalton.

Susan S. Bixby, Esq., MittelAsen, LLC, Portland, for appellee Timothy G. Dalton.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, and GORMAN, JJ.

OPINION

Page 725

MEAD, J.

[¶1] Sarah Dalton appeals from the judgment of the District Court (Portland, Moskowitz, J. ) denying or declaring moot her various post-judgment motions. Sarah's appeal challenges the trial court's evidentiary rulings at the hearing and its denial of her motion for further findings of fact and conclusions of law. She also argues that the guardian ad litem (GAL) should not be protected by quasi-judicial immunity and that the trial judge should have, sua sponte, recused himself from the case. We affirm the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] Timothy and Sarah Dalton were married in 2002 and divorced on May 7, 2013. They have three children together: a daughter, age 10, and twins, age 7.

[¶3] The trial court, after a two-day hearing, granted the couple a divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences. In its order, the court found that Sarah had used unreasonable force that overstepped the law in her physical discipline of the children, used other physical discipline that violated an interim court order, used emotionally abusive techniques to control the children, failed to appropriately change her behavior or to obtain help for her mental health issues, and failed to visit the eldest child at a visitation center. Because Sarah poses a safety concern to her own children and showed no evidence that she understood the effect of her violence on the children, the divorce judgment awarded parental rights and responsibilities and primary residence of the children to Timothy. Sarah's rights of contact were limited to three supervised visits per week and daily phone calls. The judgment also expressly provided Sarah with an opportunity to make progress with the issues that resulted in the limited contact provisions and to gain more extensive rights of contact.

[¶4] Instead of working within the constructs of the court's order to expand her rights of contact with her children, in the months following the divorce judgment, Sarah sought to collaterally attack the judgment by filing numerous post-judgment motions with the stated purpose of modifying the visitation and supervision arrangement in the judgment. The post-judgment motions filed by Sarah included the following:

o a motion for an expedited order to approve a parenting coach to work with her;
o a motion to cap GAL fees and delineate duties and responsibilities;
o a motion for an expedited order for unsupervised visitation, good faith approvals/parameters of supervision, one-on-one time, and ...

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