Family-related legal issues are inherently personal, and involve difficult issues. There is no single solution that will work to resolve different families’ legal needs. Our attorneys work to address those challenges by combining legal knowledge, a common sense approach, and an understanding of the emotional needs of our clients. Our attorneys have considerable experience trying cases before judges and juries, but we also strive to resolve cases amicably through settlement discussions and alternative dispute resolution procedures (such as mediation). When deciding on an attorney, you want someone who understands your goals and the methods to achieve them but is also able to advise you truthfully.
Our capable attorneys can assist you in all aspects of Family Law including:
- Parental Rights and Responsibilities for Unmarried Parents
- Post Judgment Modifications of Orders
- Enforcement of Orders, including Contempt Proceeding
- Representation in Protection form Harassment and Abuse Cases
Abuse and Harassment
Maine law protects victims of abuse and harassment. Individuals can seek protection from abuse (commonly referred to as “PFA”) orders, or protection from harassment (“PFH”) orders, to obtain emergency, short, or long-term protection. These orders are important – offering protection to victims, addressing parental rights and contact, possession of homes, and temporary support. Further, the process to obtain, or to defend against, a request for a protective order is expedited. If these types of court orders are violated, a victim or their family can contact the police and have the alleged abuser arrested and potentially charged with a crime.
While protection cases usually resolve in a number of weeks, the length of the order for a protection from abuse can span across multiple years and carry significant collateral consequences, including: enforcement by criminal charge, loss of rights to own/access a firearm and potential issues with employment. Furthermore, these orders can impact possession of property and parental rights and responsibilities to children.
Protection from Abuse
A PFA is a court order that serves as a restraining order for cases generally involving family or household members, or a dating partner. Other forms of abuse can form the basis of a PFA even if they were committed by someone who is not a family or household member, or dating partner. “Abuse” is defined by statute, but includes attempting or causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact, sexual assault, stalking, attempting to or placing another person in fear of bodily injury by threat, harassment, or torment, or restricting the movements of a person. When a petition for a PFA is sought, often times the Court will grant an emergency protective order. Shortly after the petition is filed, a final hearing will be scheduled where both sides will have an opportunity to present evidence and a Judge will determine if a final protection from abuse order will issue. Many times, the parties will attempt to negotiate a consent order, where protection orders are issued without findings of abuse.
Protection from Harassment
Maine also has a statute addressing orders for the protection from harassment. Maine law defines harassment as three or more acts of intimidation, confrontation, physical force, or threat of physical force, that are: 1) directed against any person, family, or business; 2) made with the intention of causing fear, intimidation, or damage to property; and 3) actually causes fear, intimidation, or damage to property. Committing a single act or course of conduct involving matters such as stalking, assault, criminal threatening, reckless conduct, sexual abuse, criminal restraint, harassment, unauthorized dissemination of private images, and numerous other listed offenses, may also form the basis for a protection from harassment order. Like protections from abuse, once an initial petition is filed, emergency protection orders may issue and the matter will be set for a final hearing.
Our attorneys are versed in criminal and family law and understand the gravity of a protection order. Whether you are seeking to obtain a protective order, or defend against an order sought against you, our attorneys can guide you through the process, ensure that you are filing under the correct statute, advise you of potential collateral consequences, and assist you in negotiating a resolution or representing you during a hearing.
Guardian Ad Litems in Maine
A guardian ad litem (“GAL”) is typically an attorney, but may also be a mental health specialist or Court Appointed Special Advocate (“CASA”). GALs are hired, or appointed by the Court, to provide an objective assessment of the circumstances surrounding the best interests of the children. Most often, GALs are hired in domestic relations cases, including divorces and parental rights and responsibilities, to assist the Court and provide recommendations on what is in the children’s best interest. The Court will use the reports provided by the GAL to facilitate determinations on various issues. The Courts generally consider GAL reports highly reliable and typically give GAL recommendations great weight when deciding a case.
When deciding on an attorney to help you in your family matter, you want someone who understands the importance of guardian ad litems and how they may impact your case.