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Papadopoulos v. Phillips

Supreme Court of Maine

June 7, 2018

JACLYN E. PAPADOPOULOS
v.
BRANDON L. PHILLIPS

          Submitted On Briefs: April 25, 2018

          Jaclyn E. Papadopoulos, pro se appellant

          James M. Dunleavy, Esq., Currier & Trask, P.A., Presque Isle, for appellee Brandon L. Phillips

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

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Jaclyn E. Papadopoulos appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Houlton, O'Mara, J.) entered on October 16, 2017, granting Brandon L. Phillipss motion to modify the parties amended divorce judgment. Papadopoulos contends, inter alia, that the court erred and abused its discretion when it modified Phillipss schedule of contact with the parties child and his child support obligation.[1] Because the child support order and the judgment are inconsistent with each other and there seems to be an error in the courts establishment of Phillipss monthly child support obligation, we vacate the child support order and the associated part of the judgment and remand to the trial court for clarification. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Papadopoulos and Phillips are the parents of one minor child. In 2011, the parties were divorced by a New Hampshire judgment that allocated primary residence of the minor child to Papadopoulos and rights of contact ("parenting time") to Phillips and required Phillips to pay child support. In 2014, the New Hampshire court entered a judgment that modified Phillips's contact schedule to accommodate his relocation to California by giving him less frequent but longer contact with the child; and increased his child support obligation to $510 per month, which reflected an agreement that the parties would share the child's travel expenses. Papadopoulos registered the amended divorce judgment in Maine in October 2015. See 19-A M.R.S. § 1765 (2017).

         [¶3] In 2017, Phillips's wife was given a three-year assignment to a naval duty station in Hawaii. In June 2017, Phillips filed a motion in the Maine District Court to modify the contact schedule and child support order.[2]

         [¶4] The court held a testimonial hearing on October 10, 2017. At the hearing, Phillips sought the right to contact with the child for the child's entire school summer vacations and every Christmas vacation. He also requested that the court either impute minimum wage income to Papadopoulos because her youngest child would soon be twenty-four months old, see 19-A M.R.S. §2001(5)(D) (2017), or remove his child support obligation because of the increased travel costs he would pay for the child to visit him, see 19-A M.R.S. §2009(2017).

         [¶5] Papadopoulos, who was not represented by counsel, asked that the court "speak with [the child] privately" without her and Phillips present. The parties agreed that they did not want the child to take the stand and testify, and they did not want to be present if the court spoke with the child. After noting that Papadopoulos did not have an attorney, the court explained that it could not meet with a witness without representatives from both sides present. The court did not hear from or speak with the child.

         [¶6] In a judgment entered on October 16, 2017, the court granted Phillips's motion to modify and awarded him contact for all but nine days of the child's summer school vacations and for alternating Christmas and Easter vacation periods to ensure that the child had "frequent and continuing contact" with Phillips, but only so long as Phillips lives outside of the continental United States. The court also modified Phillips's child support obligation. The judgment granted no additional deviation in child support to Phillips, but stated that Papadopoulos

is not now available for employment. Shortly [her youngest child] will be 24 months old. Considering the likely cost for child care and other work related expenses, the court does impute minimum wage to [Papadopoulos] in determining the amount of child support.

(Emphasis added.) The child support worksheet attached to the judgment, however, did not impute income to Papadopoulos and calculated that Phillips should pay $68 in child support each week. The child support order directed Phillips to pay $200 each month, an amount that "constitutes a deviation from the presumptive amount required by the child support guidelines" because ...


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