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Mills v. Fleming

Supreme Court of Maine

July 6, 2017

AMY B. MILLS
v.
ROGER M. FLEMING

          Argued: May 10, 2017

          Kristin A. Gustafson, Esq. (orally), Gustafson Family Law, Augusta, for appellant Amy B. Mills.

          Theodore H. Irwin, Jr., Esq. (orally), Irwin Tardy & Morris, Portland, for appellee Roger M. Fleming.

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

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] Amy B. Mills appeals from a judgment of divorce entered in the District Court (Augusta, Mathews, J.) on her complaint against Roger M. Fleming. Mills challenges, on constitutional grounds and as an abuse of the court's discretion, a provision that requires each parent to make a good faith effort to transport the parties' two minor children to specific extracurricular activities or, alternatively, to provide the other parent a right of first refusal to transport the children. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Amy B. Mills and Roger M. Fleming are the parents of a ten-year-old boy and an eight-year-old boy. The court found that both parties are "highly functional, dedicated[, ] and effective parents." "[T]he children are healthy, well-behaved, have many friends, excel at school, excel in their activities they participate in, and generally are happy." "[O]n most matters the parents agree and work very well together." The parties disagree, however, about the children's level of involvement in a developmental soccer league. Fleming wants the children to continue in the developmental soccer league, but Mills objects to the commitment of the children's time.

         [¶3] Although the parties were able to resolve almost all other issues in their relatively complex divorce in an agreement to be incorporated into the divorce judgment, they were unable to reach an agreement regarding the soccer program. Following a contested trial on this issue, the court specifically found that the soccer program is beneficial to the children's "athletic development" and "social maturity." The court further found that the children's participation in soccer had not harmed them, the inconvenience to the parents' schedules is offset by the benefits to the children, and it is in the children's best interests to continue participating in the program and "for the parents to work out their schedules so that the activity may continue."

         [¶4] The court awarded the parties shared parental rights and responsibilities and equal residential care. The judgment further provided that, with respect to the children's extracurricular activities, "unless otherwise agreed ... [e]ach party shall make a good faith effort to get the children to their activities." If the parent with whom the children are residing is unable to take the children to their activities, that parent "shall provide the other parent with the right of first refusal to transport and assume responsibility for the children."

         [¶5] Mills filed a timely notice of appeal on September 23, 2016. See 14 M.R.S. § 1901 (2016); M.R. App. P. 2(b)(3).

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶6] Mills argues that the provision requiring each parent to transport, or allow the other parent to transport, the children to extracurricular activities, even when the parent objects to the children's participation, violates her constitutionally-protected liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of her children. See Pitts v. Moore, 2014 ME 59, ¶ 11, 90 A.3d 1169; see also Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65-66 (2000); Conlogue v. Conlogue, 2006 ME 12, ¶ 12, 890A.2d691.

         [¶7] A judgment respecting parental rights and responsibilities does not implicate a parent's fundamental right to parent unless it constitutes a state intrusion on that right. See Rideout v. Riendeau,2000 ME 198, ¶ 20, 761 A.2d 291. Such an intrusion may be found to exist when a judgment directly and substantially limits the parent's decision-making authority and delegates an aspect of parental rights and responsibilities to a third party. Karamanoglu v. Gourlaouen,2016 ...


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