MAUREEN D. DAVIS
BENNIE C. MCGUIRE III
Argued: December 13, 2017
J. Roberts, Esq. (orally), Schneider & Brewer,
Waterville, for appellant
Maureen D. Davis Tiffany Bond, Esq. (orally), Bond Law,
Portland, for appellee
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
Maureen D. Davis appeals from a judgment of the District
Court (Skowhegan,  Stanfill, J.) dismissing, for
lack of standing, her complaint seeking to be determined a de
facto parent of her grandson. See 19-A M.R.S. §
1891(2) (2017). Davis argues that the court erred by
concluding after a contested hearing that she failed to
establish that she has standing to proceed to a plenary
hearing and that the court improperly held her to a greater
standard than that to which an unrelated third party would be
held. We affirm the judgment.
The following facts are either undisputed or drawn from the
court's findings of fact, all of which are supported by
the record. See Thorndike v. Lisio, 2017 ME
14, ¶ 2, 154 A.3d 624.
Davis's daughter, Danielle, gave birth to a boy in
December of 2007. Bennie C. McGuire III is the child's
father. In 2008, Danielle filed a complaint to determine
parental rights and responsibilities and child support. In
2009, by agreement of Danielle and McGuire, the District
Court (Skowhegan, Carlson, M.) entered a judgment
awarding Danielle sole parental rights and responsibilities,
with no rights of contact to McGuire, and ordering McGuire to
pay Danielle child support. Danielle died in early August of
Davis has consistently been involved in the child's life.
For example, the child frequently stayed overnight at
Davis's home, where Davis provided the child with his own
space and allowed him to keep belongings. The child's
address for purposes of school and extracurricular
activities, however, was Danielle's, and he refers to
Davis as his grandmother. Further, before Danielle's
death Davis did not seek formal recognition as a parent to
the child, and Danielle did not indicate informally that she
regarded Davis as the child's parent.
Less than one week after Danielle died, Davis filed an ex
parte petition in the Somerset County Probate Court seeking
temporary guardianship of the child. In her petition, Davis
alleged that the child had resided both with her and with
Danielle since his birth and that McGuire had not
participated in the child's life during the past eight
years other than a handful of visits with the child in Maine.
The court [Washburn, J.) granted Davis a six-month
temporary guardianship of the child.
Upon learning of the order of temporary guardianship several
days after it was issued, McGuire filed a petition to
terminate the guardianship. The Probate Court commenced a
hearing on McGuire's petition, but before the hearing
could be completed, Davis filed a complaint in the District
Court in Skowhegan seeking an adjudication that she is a de
facto parent of the child and an order establishing parental
rights and responsibilities and child support. McGuire filed
an answer to Davis's complaint and a motion to dismiss
for lack of standing. Both Davis's complaint and
McGuire's answer were accompanied by affidavits.
See 19-A M.R.S. §§ 1891(2) (A), (B).
Pursuant to the Home Court Act, see 4 M.R.S. §
152(5-A) (2017), the Probate Court case was transferred to
the District Court in Skowhegan, which conducted a
consolidated hearing (Kelly, J.) on Davis's
guardianship petition and McGuire's petition to terminate
the temporary guardianship. While the hearing was ongoing,
the parties reached an agreement for a temporary
co-guardianship, which the court accepted and entered as an
order that made Davis and McGuire the child's
co-guardians until February of 2017 and provided that the
child would move to Ohio with McGuire in late December of
2016. The order stayed all deadlines in the de facto
parenthood case and continued the case to February for either
an uncontested hearing or a case management conference,
specifically reserving the issue of standing. The
parties' agreement subsequently faltered, however, as was
demonstrated in early December of 2016 when McGuire filed a
motion for contempt, which the court ultimately denied after
holding a hearing the following month.
With the resumption of proceedings on Davis's de facto
parenthood complaint, the court [Stanfill, J.)
issued a written order on standing. In the order, the court
stated that based on its review of the parties'
affidavits filed with the complaint and the answer, it
"has serious concerns whether Ms. Davis's role has
historically been as a loving and involved grandparent or as
a de facto parent." For that reason, the court scheduled
a hearing pursuant to section 1891 (2) (C) for the court
"to determine" whether Davis satisfied specified
aspects of the standing framework.
At the resulting hearing, held in March of 2017, both parties
testified, and, by agreement, the record included transcripts
from the earlier proceedings held in both the Probate Court
and the District Court. Later that month, the court entered a
judgment dismissing Davis's de facto parenthood complaint
for lack of standing. The order contained a number of
findings of fact and reiterated that the purpose of the
hearing was for the court "to determine those
facts" that were controverted.
In its judgment, the court addressed the separate statutory
criteria that must be met for a party to establish de facto
parenthood. See 19-A M.R.S. § 1891(3) (2017).
But see infra n.7. The court found that Davis had
presented prima facie evidence
that she has engaged in consistent caretaking of [the child];
that there is a bonded and dependent relationship between Ms.
Davis and [the child] that was fostered by [the child's]
mother Danielle; that [Davis] accepts full and permanent
responsibility of the child without expectation of financial
compensation; and that the continuing relationship between
Ms. Davis and [the child] is in his best interest.
court also found, however, that Davis did not present
"prima facie evidence that [the child] resided with her
for a significant period of time" or
that Danielle understood, acknowledged or accepted that or
behaved as though Ms. Davis was [the child's] parent as
opposed to a loving, involved and supportive grandparent. . .
. [A]lthough it appears that Danielle relied heavily on Ms.
Davis for help with [the child], taking care of him after
school, getting him to events, and the like, there is little
evidence that Danielle saw Ms. Davis as a parent, with rights
equal to hers, as opposed to a wonderful and important
grandmother who provided consistent support and assistance.
court further found that, given the child's bond with
Davis, the child's separation from her would cause him
"despair." Following from its finding that McGuire
is a fit and competent parent, the court concluded that the
best interest of the child by itself is nonetheless
insufficient to confer standing on Davis.
Because the court concluded that Davis failed to prove
several elements necessary to establish her standing to
proceed with the de facto parenthood claim, the court
dismissed the complaint. Davis moved for additional findings
and to amend the judgment. See M.R. Civ. P. 52, 59.
The court denied the motion, ...