2013 FAMILY DIVISION TASK FORCE: Seeking Input to Improve Maine’s Family Court

By Rudman Winchell Attorney

By: Rudman Winchell Attorney Anthony Trask (a member of the task force)

A decade and a half ago the Family Division of the
Maine District Court was established with the mission of “providing a system of
justice that is responsive to the needs of families and the support of their
children.”1 The Family Division was designed to handle cases
involving divorce (property division, alimony/spousal support, etc.),
paternity, parental rights and responsibilities, child support, grandparents’
visitation, protective custody, and protection from abuse (among others). The Family Division also deals with matters
initiated to enforce existing court orders that are not being followed or to modify
orders when circumstances have changed. In 2006 the Maine Supreme Court established a Task
Force to evaluate the Family Division’s practices and procedures and to make
recommendations for improvement. The work of 2006 Task Force culminated in a comprehensive report that resulted in various changes to the way Maine’s Family Division operated.2

In early 2013 Maine’s highest Court decided it was time to establish another Task Force to assess the workings of the Family Division and to make recommendations to remedy areas still in need of
improvement. In addition to a general review of how the Family Division is
serving the needs of Maine families, the 2013 Task Force was specifically asked
to review the report issued by the 2006 Task Force and evaluate the progress
that has been made toward implementing recommendations. Furthermore, this Task
Force was instructed to obtain input from lawyers, interested parties, and the
public at large regarding problems in the family law judicial system and how it
might be improved. The 2013 Task Force will study the information it
gathers and develop recommendations to help the Family Division better serve
the needs of children and families in Maine. Two areas of focus are eliminating
unnecessary costs and delays in Court processes and creating different or
improved procedures that will promote prompt and effective resolutions to
family disputes.

I was honored to be asked to sit on the 2013 Task Force, which has met a number of times and has been working diligently to identify areas in which the Family Division of the Court can improve. In the coming weeks we will be supplementing the information we have already gathered by
holding a number of public hearings at which anyone is welcome to attend and
express his or her concerns. The schedule for public hearings has not yet been
established but as soon as the locations, dates, and times of the hearings have
been set I will follow-up with that information. It will also be posted on the website of the
Maine Judicial Branch.3 If you or someone close to you has had an experience with the Family Division of the Court here in Maine and you would
like the opportunity to express your thoughts – good, bad, or otherwise – I
encourage you to attend the public hearing in your region. In the alternative,
you can send your written concerns to me4 and I will ensure your
message is passed on to the entire Task Force for our consideration.

1. 4 M.R.S.A. §183.

2. The full report developed by the 2006 Family Division
Task Force can be found at http://www.courts.maine.gov/reports_pubs/reports/fdtf_2006.html

3. The State of Maine Judicial Branch homepage is located
at http://www.courts.maine.gov.

4. Written comments can be emailed to me at atrask@rudmanwinchell.com, sent via
facsimile to my attention at 207-941-9715, or sent by regular mail to P.O. Box 1401, Bangor, ME 04402-1401.
Please indicate in the subject line the information is intended for the Family Division Task Force.

Disclaimer


These materials have been prepared by Rudman Winchell for educational purposes only. They should not be considered legal advice. The transmission of this information to you is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. You should not send any confidential or private information to Rudman Winchell until a formal attorney-client relationship has been established, in writing.