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Boyd v. Manter

Supreme Court of Maine

February 13, 2018

MELANIE G. BOYD
v.
EDWARD W. MANTER

          On Briefs: October 24, 2017

          John F. Barnicle, Esq., Moncure & Barnicle, Brunswick, for appellant Edward W. Manter

          Anthony P. Shusta II, Esq., Law Offices of Anthony P. Shusta II, Madison, for appellee Melanie G. Boyd

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

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Edward W. Manter appeals from an amended judgment entered in May 2017 by the District Court (Skowhegan, Benson, J.) granting Manter's motion to modify and amending the parties' 2008 divorce judgment [Nivison, J.) as amended in 2008 [Nivison, J.) and 2011 [Darvin, J.). On appeal, Manter argues that the court erred and abused its discretion when it (1) modified the parents' rights of contact; (2) denied his motion for amended or additional findings; and (3) determined that he was in arrears of his child support obligation. We affirm the judgment with respect to the parents' rights of contact, but vacate the court's determination that Manter was $10, 692.58 in arrears of his child support obligation and remand for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Manter and MelanieG. Boyd are the parents of one minor child. The parties were divorced by a judgment that was issued in 2008 and was later modified in 2008 and 2011. In the 2011 modification, Boyd was granted primary physical residence of the child and Manter was ordered to pay child support. In December 2015, Manter filed a motion to modify the divorce judgment and requested that (1) the child's primary residence be changed to his home and Boyd be awarded rights of contact; (2) final decision making related to education, medical health, and mental health be allocated to Manter; and (3) Boyd be ordered to pay child support to Manter. See 19-A M.R.S. § 1657 (2017); 19-A M.R.S. § 2009 (2017).

         [¶3] Since 2008, the courts and the guardian ad litem have noted that "a lack of communication and hostility... characterize [] the parties' parenting relationship." In the present proceeding, the contact schedule was repeatedly identified as a major source of stress for the parties and the child. Between 2011 and 2017, the child's primary residence was with Boyd during the school year, but the child's contact schedule required multiple transitions between the parents each week during the school year and summer.

          [¶4] On March 27, 2017, after a three-day testimonial hearing, the court entered an order on Manter's motion to modify the parties' amended divorce judgment. Manter filed a motion for amended or additional findings, pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 52(b), and a motion to amend the judgment, pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 59(e), which the court denied, while granting in part Boyd's motion to amend the judgment. The amended order modifying the divorce judgment preserved the child's primary residence with Boyd and eliminated several of the child's transitions between the parents. The court also entered a new child support order to reflect Manter's increased salary and Boyd's decreased salary. The court made the child support award "retroactive to the date of service" and found that Manter was in arrears in the amount of $10, 692.58. Manter timely appealed the amended order modifying the divorce judgment and the denial of his motion for additional or amended findings. See 14 M.R.S. § 1901 (2017); M.R. App. P. 2(b)(3) (Tower 2016).[1]

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶5] Manter first argues that the court abused its discretion when it modified the contact schedule. "The trial court is afforded broad discretion in determining the custody and residence of minor children, and we review the court's decision ... upon a motion to modify a divorce judgment for an abuse of discretion." Akers v. Akers, 2012 ME 75, ¶ 2, 44 A.3d 311. "The trial court's factual findings are reviewed for clear error." Id. Because the court denied Manter's motion for additional or amended findings, "we cannot infer findings from the evidence in the record." Ehretv. Ehret, 2016 ME 43, ¶ 9, 135 A.3d 10L

         [¶6] When a court considers the modification of a divorce judgment, it must determine the best interest of the child by examining the factors in 19-AM.R.S. § 1653(3) (2017). See Akers, 2012 ME 75, ¶ 3, 44 A.3d 311. "We review the court's factual findings related to the child's best interest to determine whether they are supported by competent evidence in the record. The ultimate determination of the weight to be given each factor requires careful consideration by the court and is left to the sound discretion of the court." Id. (citation omitted).

         [¶7] Contrary to Manter's contentions, the court did not abuse its discretion or err when it modified the contact schedule. The court considered the relevant best interest factors and found that both parents have a strong bond with the child and both parents "would work hard to provide her with a good and stable life, " but that maintaining continuity of primary residence with Boyd was "of critical importance." The court also found that the current situation was "intolerable for the parties, as well as for [the child], " and that the parties' dispute resolution abilities "are nearly zero." The court was guided by these factors when it ordered the new contact schedule. The new contact schedule maintains continuity for the child and reduces the transitions that cause conflict and stress for the child and the parties. Therefore, the new contact schedule presents a reasonable option that the court concluded is in the child's best interest. See ...


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