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Clark v. Leeman

Supreme Court of Maine

November 29, 2016

TAYLOR CLARK
v.
MORGAN A. LEEMAN

          On Briefs: September 29, 2016

         On the briefs:

          Matthew W. Howell, Esq., Clark & Howell, LLC, York, for appellant Taylor Clark.

          Kenneth P. Altshuler, Esq., Childs, Rundlett, Fifield & Altshuler, LLC, Portland, for appellee Morgan A. Leeman.

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

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Taylor Clark appeals from the District Courts (York, Janelle, J.) judgment granting Morgan Leemans motion to modify a parental rights and responsibilities order pertaining to their daughter, a minor child. Because the District Court did not abuse its discretion in granting the modification, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The court made the following findings, which are supported by the record. On February 8, 2011, the District Court issued a parental rights and responsibilities judgment pertaining to Clark and Leemans minor child. The judgment allocated parental rights and responsibilities to the parties, granted primary physical residence to Clark, and made specific provisions for Leemans contact with the child.

         [¶3] In the summer of 2014, Clark expressed his desire to relocate with the child from Massachusetts-where he resided at the time of the action-to Illinois. Because the parties would be living a considerable distance apart, they sought and obtained a modification of the order to reflect this change in circumstances. Clark, however, never took the child with him to Illinois. Instead, the child remained in Massachusetts, where she resided with her grandmother and attended the local elementary school. Clark never told Leeman that the child had not moved, and he purposefully misled her about the childs location. As a result of Clarks course of conduct, Leeman was unable to see the child for over five months.

         [¶4] Upon learning that the child was living in Massachusetts, Leeman petitioned the court to modify the order. After a hearing, the court granted Leemans motion and changed the childs primary residence from being with Clark to being with Leeman. In its order, the court concluded that Clarks actions "were clearly not in the best interests of [the child] and, in fact, were detrimental to her." Specifically, the court determined that Clarks dishonest acts "disrupted [the childs] relationship with [Leeman] and required her to be a part of this subterfuge from her mother." Clark has timely appealed. See M.R. App. P. 2(b)(3).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         [¶5] On appeal, Clark argues that the court erred in granting the modification, arguing that the change in her primary residence was not in the childs best interest. We review the trial courts ultimate decision to modify a parental rights and responsibilities order for abuse of discretion ...


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