CORY M. KELLEY
LAURA E. MCKEE
Submitted On Briefs: October 24, 2019
L. McGehee, Esq., Perkins Thompson, Portland, for appellant
E. McKee Cory M. Kelley did not file a brief
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and
Laura McKee appeals from a judgment of the District Court
(Portland, Darvin, J.) denying her motion to modify
an order determining her and Cory Kelley's parental
rights and responsibilities with respect to the parties'
daughter. McKee argues that the court erred or abused its
discretion by (1) failing to find that a substantial change
in circumstances had occurred since the original
determination of Kelley's visitation rights with the
child, and (2) determining that the child's best
interests would not be served by granting her motion to
modify. We affirm the judgment.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the court's
judgment, the record supports the following facts. See
Young v. Young, 2015 ME 89, ¶ 2, 120 A.3d 106.
McKee and Kelley are the parents of a three-year-old child.
Shortly after the child was born, McKee left Maine with the
child because Kelley had acted violently toward McKee. Kelley
subsequently filed a petition to determine parental rights
and responsibilities in September 2016. In August 2017, the
District Court [Montgomery, J.) issued a judgment
determining the parties' parental rights and
responsibilities. McKee was awarded primary physical
residence, and Kelley was allowed weekly supervised visits at
the Maine Supervised Visitation Center (MSVC). The
court's judgment also established Kelley's child
support obligations and directed the return to McKee of
certain personal property, including her dog, Boomer.
Following the entry of that judgment, Kelley had weekly
visits with the child at MSVC until McKee suspended them in
October 2018, at which time she filed the present motion to
modify. The District Court [Darvin, J.) held a
hearing on the motion on February 21, 2019.
Evidence at the hearing indicated that McKee stopped bringing
the child to supervised visits as a result of several
incidents. First, McKee learned that, in August 2018, Kelley
had abused his son from a different relationship.
Specifically, Kelley had struck or slapped his son on the
back, resulting in "scarring." Second, McKee was
concerned about her child's safety after hearing from the
owner of MSVC that Kelley had, during a visit on September
27, 2018, picked up the child and insisted on receiving a hug
even after the child had told Kelley, "No." The
incident on September 27 was the only negative interaction
that the owner of MSVC had witnessed between Kelley and the
child in roughly fifty visits. Third, on at least three
occasions, Kelley had violated a no-contact order in place
between the parties.
The District Court denied McKee's motion, finding that
McKee had not shown either (1) a substantial change in
circumstances or (2) that a modification to the parties'
parental rights and responsibilities was in the child's
best interests. McKee filed a motion for further findings of
fact, which the court denied. McKee timely appealed the
District Court's judgment. See M.R. App. P. 2B.
We review a ruling on a motion to modify a parental rights
and responsibilities order for findings unsupported by the
record, an abuse of discretion, or an error of law. See
Jackson v. MacLeod,2014 ME 110, ¶¶ 10, 23,
100 A.3d 484. The movant "must demonstrate that a
substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the
previous decree and that the modification is in the best
interests of the child as determined through an analysis of
the factors in 19-A M.R.S. § 1653(3) [(2018)]."
Id. ¶ 21. When the District Court finds that
there has been a substantial change in circumstances,
"the court must consider the factors provided in 19-A
M.R.S. § 1653(3)... to determine what, if any,
modification of the existing order is in the child's best
interest." Sargent v. Braun,2 ...