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Bergin v. Bergin

Supreme Court of Maine

August 13, 2019

NANCY BERGIN
v.
DANIEL BERGIN

          Submitted On Briefs: July 18, 2019

          Scott F. Hess, Esq., The Law Office of Scott F. Hess, LLC, Augusta, for appellant Nancy Bergin

          Robert C. Granger, Esq., Acadia Law Group, LLC, Ellsworth, for appellee Daniel Bergin

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

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Nancy Bergin appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Ellsworth, Roberts, J.) granting a divorce from Daniel Bergin, setting parental rights and responsibilities between them as to the parties' three minor children, denying her request for an order for protection from abuse, and denying her motion for further findings of fact. Nancy argues that the court erred and abused its discretion by granting Daniel primary residence of the children and final decision-making authority in regard to the children; by allowing an expert on parental alienation to testify; by declining to award her continuing spousal support; and by denying her request for an order for protection from abuse. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Over five days in September and October 2018, the court held a final hearing on Nancy's complaints for divorce and protection from abuse against Daniel. On February 7, 2019, the court issued its judgment allocating parental rights between the parties, with Daniel awarded final decision-making authority and the right to provide primary residence to the children. The court denied Nancy's request for an order for protection from abuse.

         [¶3] Nancy moved the court to reconsider its judgment and for further findings of fact. See M.R. Civ. P. 52(b), 59(e). The court denied Nancy's motion, stating that it consisted only of "disagreements with the court's findings." Nancy timely appealed. See 19-A M.R.S. § 104 (2018); M.R. App. P. 2B(c)(1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Parental Rights and Responsibilities

         [¶4] Nancy argues that the court erred by granting Daniel primary residence of the children and final decision-making authority, and by denying her motion for further findings of fact in relation to those determinations. We review the court's underlying factual findings for clear error and its ultimate decision on both an award of parental rights and responsibilities and the denial of a motion for further findings of fact for an abuse of discretion. Klein v. Klein, 2019 ME 85, ¶ 5, 208 A.3d 802; Pyle v. Pyle, 2017 ME 101, ¶ 7, 162 A.3d 814.

         [¶5] The court's judgment includes extensive factual findings regarding the background of the case as well as additional findings specific to each of the best interest factors that it was required to consider before setting parental rights and responsibilities between the parties. See 19-A M.R.S. §1653(3) (2018); Nadeau v. Nadeau, 2008 ME 147, ¶ 35, 957 A.2d 108 (stating that a court's findings are sufficient when it is clear that "the court considered the best interest factors by expressly analyzing those factors most relevant under the circumstances presented").

         [¶6] In particular, the court found that Nancy's persistent and unrelenting efforts to prevent the children from having a healthy relationship with their father outweighed other factors regarding the children's best interests. The record supports the court's finding that, despite a previously "strong relationship" with Daniel, the children were left without a meaningful relationship with their father as a result of Nancy's interference, frequent moves, and refusal to allow and support regular contact between the children and Daniel. The court's thorough and thoughtful findings regarding the best interests of the children reflect an ...


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