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Aranovitch v. Versel

Supreme Court of Maine

November 17, 2015


Submitted On Briefs: July 23, 2015

On the briefs:

Jocelyn A. Stachowske, Esq., Shaheen & Gordon, PA, Dover, New Hampshire, for appellant Jennie E. Aranovitch

Jeanette M. Durham, Esq., Fairfield & Associates, PA, Lyman, for appellee David E. Versel



[¶1] Jennie E. Aranovitch appeals from an order entered by the District Court (Biddeford, Janelle, J.) granting David E. Versel's motion to modify the parties' divorce judgment and awarding him primary residence of the parties' minor children. Aranovitch challenges several of the court's findings and contends that the court's remaining findings are insufficient to support the ordered modification. She also argues that the court erred by failing to apply the correct legal standard. We reject these contentions, and affirm.


[¶2] In December 2009, Aranovitch and Versel were divorced pursuant to a stipulated judgment that awarded Aranovitch primary residence of, and Versel specific rights of contact with, the parties' minor son and daughter. The judgment recited the parties' agreement that neither would "cohabit with and, thereby, expose the minor children to anyone who abuses . . . alcohol, " nor "allow the children to be passengers in a vehicle driven by someone whose reflexes and/or judgment is compromised due to . . . alcohol consumption."

[¶3] In December 2010, Versel moved to modify the divorce judgment, alleging that Aranovitch was cohabiting with Jacques Blais and thereby exposing the children to a person who abused alcohol. The court (Foster, J.) held a hearing on the motion in August 2011, and took the matter under advisement. The court's order on that motion contains the following findings of historical fact.

[¶4] Aranovitch was in a relationship with Blais before the divorce was finalized, and Versel insisted on the judgment's language regarding the children's exposure to alcohol because he was concerned about Blais's drinking. In 2010, Versel remarried and moved to Georgia. Aranovitch and Blais began cohabiting and devised strategies to minimize the impact of Blais's drinking on the family. Despite these strategies, Blais was charged with operating under the influence (OUI) in February 2010, and again in August 2010. With regard to both charges, Aranovitch was convinced that Blais had not been intoxicated, and that his blood and breath tests were inaccurate. In August 2010, Blais pleaded guilty to the February OUI charge and his license was suspended for a period of ninety days.

[¶5] In the fall of 2010, Aranovitch arranged for the parties' daughter to attend daycare for part of the day. She allowed the daughter to spend the remainder of the day at home with Blais, who had lost his job due to his OUI conviction. On October 27, 2010, while his license suspension was in effect, Blais picked the daughter up from daycare and drove her home without Aranovitch's knowledge. The daycare provider smelled alcohol on Blais's breath and the police were notified, resulting in a third OUI charge. Blais pleaded guilty to that charge and served twenty-three days in jail. When he learned about the daycare incident, Versel asked Aranovitch not to allow Blais to resume living with her and the children. Aranovitch refused this request and permitted Blais to return to her home upon his release, explaining to Versel that Blais had been sober in jail and had enrolled in an outpatient program to maintain sobriety in her home.

[¶6] The court also noted that, during the August 2011 hearing, Aranovitch insisted that she had not violated the terms of the judgment, explaining that Blais used but did not abuse alcohol, and that he did not drink around the children because he only drank outside.

[¶7] In the resulting order entered in September 2011, the court stated that it was disturbed by Aranovitch's "focus on explaining away the problem, " and concluded that it was "naiveté at best, and self-deception at worst, to believe that [Blais's] long-term, serious substance abuse ha[d] been resolved through a short-term program." The court found that Aranovitch had not complied with the divorce judgment, and that she would not comply in the future without "tighter strictures." The court consequently amended the divorce judgment to specifically prohibit Blais from consuming alcohol, or being under the influence of alcohol in the residence or in the presence of the ...

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