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Gordius v. Kelley

Supreme Court of Maine

May 26, 2016

JENNA GORDIUS
v.
RANDALL G. KELLEY et al.

          Submitted On Briefs: September 28, 2015

         Ellsworth District Court docket numbers FM-2012-126 and FM-2013-281

         On the briefs:

          Christopher J. Whalley, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant

          Randall G. Kelley Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellee Jenna Gordius

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

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] 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.

         [¶3] 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.

         [¶4] 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.

         [¶5] 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.

         [¶6] 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 deemed exceptional."

         [¶7] 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.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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