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Jackson v. Macleod

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

September 9, 2014

PATRICK T. JACKSON III
v.
SALLY A. (JACKSON) MACLEOD

Submitted on Briefs July 30, 2014

Judgment assessing a civil monetary penalty vacated. Judgment affirmed in all other respects.

Brianne M. Martin, Esq., Powers & French, P.A., Freeport, for appellant Patrick T. Jackson III.

Hesper Schleiderer-Hardy, Esq., Childs, Rundlett, Fifield & Altshuler, LLC, Portland, for appellee Sally A. (Jackson) MacLeod.

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

OPINION

Page 485

ALEXANDER, J.

[¶1] Patrick T. Jackson III appeals from a judgment of the District Court (West Bath, Field, J. ) granting Sally A. (Jackson) MacLeod's motion to modify the parties' parental rights and responsibilities judgment and imposing a $1000 civil penalty against Jackson. See 19-A M.R.S. § § 1653(10), 1657(1) (2013).[1] Jackson argues

Page 486

that the court erred or abused its discretion by (1) relying on events that occurred in the period between the filing of MacLeod's motion to modify and the hearing on that motion, (2) finding that it was in the youngest child's best interest to cease overnight visitation with Jackson until the child turns sixteen, (3) considering evidence of a parenting dispute between Jackson and MacLeod, (4) finding that there had been a substantial change in circumstances that justified a modification of parental rights and responsibilities, and (5) assessing a civil penalty against Jackson. We affirm the portions of the judgment relating to the modification of Jackson's rights of contact with the youngest child, but vacate the portion of the judgment assessing a civil monetary penalty.

I. CASE HISTORY

[¶2] Jackson and MacLeod married in 1993 and have three children together. Jackson filed for divorce in 2002, and in 2004 the court issued a divorce judgment. Since its outset, this divorce action has been characterized by an unusually large number of motions caused by both parties' unwillingness or inability to cooperate and communicate, particularly related to matters involving their children.

[¶3] This continuing contentiousness, which has now extended over a decade, has likely had adverse effects on the parties' children, and has required a tremendous commitment of judicial resources toward protecting the children and their best interests. In an effort to alleviate the conflict and facilitate greater cooperation between the parties, the court employed many intensive case management efforts over the years. These efforts included requiring the parties to attend the High-Conflict Kids First program, the special assignment of a single justice, the employment of a second single justice to offer a " second opinion," the use of " ourfamilywizard" and a special deposit mechanism, and the appointment of a guardian ad litem and special master pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 53. Despite the court's efforts, the intense level of conflict and litigation between the parties persists.

[¶4] Prior to the judgment at issue in this appeal, Jackson and MacLeod shared parental rights over educational decisions because Jackson, through a family trust, pays for the three children's private school education. MacLeod had sole parental rights over all other major decisions. MacLeod also provided the primary residence for all three children, although the eldest child, now eighteen, has chosen to reside with Jackson. Jackson had reasonable rights of contact with the children every other weekend as well as certain

Page 487

holidays and school vacation ...


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