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Cabral v. Lheureux

Supreme Court of Maine

March 16, 2017

KENNETH CABRAL
v.
DANIELLE LHEUREUX

          Submitted On Briefs: July 20, 2016

          Richard L. Rhoda, Esq., Houlton, for appellant Danielle L'Heureux.

          Kenneth Cabral did not file a brief.

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

          MEAD, J.

         [¶1] Danielle L'Heureux appeals from a judgment entered in the District Court (Houlton, O'Mara, J.) that established parental rights and responsibilities and awarded Kenneth Cabral primary physical residence of the parties' two daughters. L'Heureux argues that the court erred in considering and relying upon evidence offered in a separate proceeding concerning the same parties. We agree and vacate the order and remand for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are established in the record in this matter. L'Heureux and Cabral are the parents of two daughters, ages nine and twelve at the time of the District Court's October 14, 2015, order. At the time Cabral commenced a complaint for determination of parental rights and responsibilities and child support in the District Court at Lewiston in August 2012, the girls were residing with him at his home in Aroostook County. L'Heureux resided in Auburn, and the children had been residing with her until the month before Cabral's filing. After multiple continuances, the case was transferred to the District Court at Houlton in March 2014. A hearing was held on the complaint on September 28, 2015, and the court issued its decision on October 14, 2015.

         [¶3] Cabral, his daughters, and his partner and her three children live in a mobile home that suffers from a significant lack of adequate heating and sanitation facilities, including a lack of running water in the past. The elder daughter testified to her distress in living under the conditions in the mobile home. The mother of a friend of one of the daughters testified to the conditions within the trailer after briefly observing them when bringing the daughter home. She reported that Cabral prohibited his daughter from visiting the friend's house after the visit.

         [¶4] L'Heureux resides in an apartment in Auburn. She testified that she had been engaged in an "unhealthy relationship" that concluded three years prior to the hearing. She was arrested at her apartment for disorderly conduct, but the charges were later dropped.

         [¶5] During the period between the filing of the parental rights complaint by Cabral in 2012 and the issuance of the court's October 14, 2015, order, Cabral obtained two protection orders against L'Heureux: an order for protection from abuse from the District Court at Lewiston, and an order for protection from harassment from the District Court at Houlton. At the conclusion of the evidence in the parental rights case, the court announced that it was going to take judicial notice of the protection from harassment case that it had presided over in April and June 2014.[1] The October 2015 parental rights and responsibilities order includes the following statement:

The court has carefully considered the evidence, and has taken judicial notice of the pleadings, testimony and orders in HOUDC-PA-14-10 and hereby renders its Judgment

(Emphasis added.)

         [¶6] After the issuance of the order and the denial of L'Heureux's motion for amended or additional ...


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