It isn’t often that most people have a chance to read an actual divorce and custody story that is being appealed to Maine’s Supreme Court, as we write this. Child custody appeals are relatively rare. Most people, who might wish to appeal, are intimidated by the process; many are discouraged by lawyers, who don’t wish to offend a lower court judge by asking a higher court to intervene and correct a decision. Then, there is the huge amount of work involved and the not inconsiderable expense.
The process starts with a heartfelt disagreement with a lower court judgment and with the handling of the law in that court. It requires courage to challenge a family court judgment. It also always embodies a determined love of one’s child (children). In effect the appellant is very publicly saying – but in polite legal language – to the court, “You are dead wrong! Your judgment is not only unfair but badly arrived at. The tools you are using and the reasoning process are seriously defective! I strongly protest!” How a skilled attorney approaches this problem and chooses the most important issues out of a welter of possible “plots, subplots and very involved stories” is a matter of legal judgment. Most of us, as parents and family would get lost in a morass of the details that go into a custody fight. The enclosed brief of this particular case demonstrates the vitally necessary partnership between lawyer and client. It is a union of “heart and courage” and ”head” – the level, focused intellectual crafting of the case essentials by a lawyer. It will be, I guarantee you, a most interesting and informative “read”.
We’ve been hearing from family members some of the unbelievable details of this case, Dalton vs Dalton, for just over a year. We have held our breath each time there has been a court hearing, hoping for fairness, for a reasonable turn of events, for a review of hard facts and for correction of a frightening nightmare of misperception being acted out in court. But the process seemed only to get worse as time went on. The extreme and inaccurate views of the court and a Guardian ad litem have, unfortunately, become ever more rigidly entrenched. Hence, the difficult decision to appeal.
We have to say, in no way to diminish this very troubling case, that from our experience with many other friends, the clumsy handling of this case in this court is, unfortunately, by no means unique. This case is a poster child for other very similar cases, and it is an urgent clarion call for urgently needed Family Court Reform in Maine. Like most Family Courts in America today, Maine’s courts are in the views of many, badly broken, dysfunctional and urgently in need of reconceptualization and reconstruction. They have lost their moorings in the law, and they are cruelly hurting many of the families and children that they are supposed to serve.
Please, read the enclosed pdf with the details of the Supreme Court Appeal and see what you think. By all means, share it with friends and legal professionals. Ask the questions: “Is this how our courts should function? Is this your image of what you would expect from a court in a democratic society?”
Finally, who is in charge, where’s the oversight?
To view the case click on the link – Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521
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