Submitted On Briefs: September 28, 2015
District Court docket numbers FM-2012-126 and FM-2013-281
Christopher J. Whalley, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant
Randall G. Kelley Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., Ellsworth, for
appellee Jenna Gordius
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and
Randall G. Kelley appeals from a judgment of the District
Court (Ellsworth, Mallonee, J.) determining that he
was not a de facto parent of Jenna Gordius's child.
Because key factual findings are in conflict in the
court's findings, we must vacate the court's decision
and remand for further proceedings.
The following facts are derived from the trial court's
findings, and we review them with considerable deference.
Buck v. Buck, 2015 ME 33, ¶ 5, 113 A.3d 1095.
Kelley and Gordius were in a romantic relationship for
approximately ten years before they were married in May 2012.
Gordius's child was born on July 14, 2011, at a time when
Gordius and Kelley were together but unmarried. Although the
two had been living together for a number of years at the
time of the child's birth, Arvide J. Pennartz is the
biological father of the child. On April 27, 2012, shortly
before Gordius and Kelley were married, Gordius filed a
complaint in the District Court against Pennartz for a
determination of paternity and parental rights and
responsibilities. A year later, on May 22, 2013, the District
Court entered a judgment that determined Pennartz's
paternity, awarded Gordius and Pennartz shared parental
rights and responsibilities, and granted Gordius primary
residence of the child and Pennartz weekly contact.
Both parties agree that while Gordius and Kelley lived
together before their breakup on October 21, 2013, Kelley was
very close to and supportive of Gordius's child. When
Gordius filed for divorce following their breakup, Kelley
filed a motion to modify the parental rights and
responsibilities order entered between Gordius and Pennartz,
claiming intervenor status as a de facto parent. The court
granted Kelley's request that the divorce action and the
motion claiming de facto parenthood be consolidated.
Following a hearing on the consolidated matters on March 28,
2014, the court issued an interim order preliminarily
granting Kelley de facto parent status and awarding him the
right to have contact with the child "to be coordinated
with [Pennartz's] schedule." On this same date, the
court granted a divorce to Gordius and Kelley.
After a hearing on December 18, 2014, the court entered a
final order on Kelley's claim for de facto parenthood. In
that order, the court stated that "[a]lthough the terms
of the [divorce] judgment [finding Kelley to be a de facto
parent] were not expressed as temporary, the parties and the
court treated them as such." The court also stated that
it "remains convinced . . . that Mr. Kelley has
undertaken a permanent, equivocal, committed, and responsible
parental role in the child's life . . . and that Mr.
Kelley's exclusion from [the child's] life will hurt
the child." Despite these findings, the court concluded
that Kelley failed to establish his status as a de facto
parent to the child because the "circumstances cannot be
Kelley filed a consolidated motion for further findings of
fact and conclusions of law and a motion to alter or amend
the judgment pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 59(e). The court denied
these motions and Kelley timely appealed.