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Guardianship of Golodner

Supreme Court of Maine

March 16, 2017

GUARDIANSHIP OF ALISHA K. GOLODNER

          Argued: September 15, 2016

          Decided: February 24, 2017

          David P. Mooney, Esq. (orally), Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for appellant Daniel Golodner

          Dana E. Prescott, Esq. (orally), Prescott Jamieson Murphy Law Group, LLC, Saco, for appellee Gail Golodner

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

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] Daniel Golodner appeals from a judgment of the York County Probate Court [Longley, J.) denying his petition to terminate the guardianship of his now fourteen-year-old daughter, Alisha K. Golodner, upon finding that (1) the guardian, Gail Golodner, proved, by clear and convincing evidence, that Daniel is unfit to parent Alisha; and (2) Daniel failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that termination of the guardianship would be in Alisha's best interest.[1] We affirm the judgment denying Daniel's petition to terminate the guardianship, but we remand the case for the court to reconsider the portion of its order requiring Daniel to pay guardian ad litem (GAL) fees as a sanction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Alisha Golodner was born in Germany in 2003 to Daniel Golodner and Frauke Sawaha. The family moved to Connecticut and, after Frauke returned to Germany, a Connecticut court awarded Daniel sole legal custody of Alisha in 2006. In 2010, facing criminal charges and the possibility of jail time, Daniel arranged for Alisha to live in Maine with his recently widowed stepmother, Gail Golodner. Gail filed, in the York County Probate Court, a petition to be appointed as Alisha's guardian. After an uncontested hearing, the court [Bailey, /.) granted Gail's motion and appointed her as Alisha's full, permanent guardian. See 18-A M.R.S. § 5-204 (2016). The order made no specific provision for ongoing contact between Daniel and Alisha.[2]

         [¶3] For the first three years of the guardianship, Gail permitted Daniel to have extended visits with Alisha at Gail's home and to speak with his daughter on the telephone. In late 2013, however, after an altercation between Daniel and Alisha that prompted Gail to call the police, Gail told Daniel that he was no longer welcome at the home and she denied him contact with Alisha. On June 23, 2014, pursuantto 18-A M.R.S. § 5-212 (2016), Daniel filed a petition to terminate the guardianship, alleging that the "[g]uardian ha[d] denied [him] normal contact rights in an effort to alienate [him] and his family from [Alisha]."

         [¶4] The court [Nadeau, J.) appointed a GAL and, on Daniel's motion, entered an interim order in October 2014 providing for ongoing contact between Daniel and Alisha as coordinated by the GAL, including telephone calls twice per week. The court ordered Gail to "ensure that [Alisha] will speak and listen to [Daniel] during such telephone calls" and authorized Gail to record the calls.

         [¶5] On January 15 and 25, 2016, the court [LongleyJ.) held a hearing on Daniel's petition to terminate the guardianship. The court heard testimony from Daniel, Gail, the GAL, and a close friend of Daniel. Alisha also testified, on the record but outside the presence of the parties and the attorneys. The court admitted in evidence, inter alia, several recordings of telephone calls between Daniel and Alisha. On the second day of the hearing, the GAL testified that Daniel had left a voicemail for him after the first day of the hearing accusing the GAL of "slander" and "libel" and threatening to "fil[e] a grievance with the Maine Bar" depending on "how [the GAL] perform[ed] between now and the end of the trial or the end of the matter."

         [¶6] After the hearing, by order dated January 28, 2016, the court denied Daniel's petition to terminate the guardianship upon finding that (1) Gail proved, by clear and convincing evidence, that Daniel is unfit to parent Alisha; and (2) Daniel failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that termination of the guardianship would be in Alisha's best interest. The court, however, imposed conditions on the guardian, requiring Gail to arrange continued counseling for Alisha, "look for healthy opportunities for [Alisha] to have routine telephone conversations with" Daniel, and ensure that Daniel has reasonable access to Alisha's report cards and extra-curricular ...


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