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What are Family Court Records?
Family court records are public documented events of trials, court cases, and proceedings that relate to cases in the jurisdiction of the family court. These records comprise of details such as the date and nature of the case, the defendant and the plaintiff involved, and the relationship between the involved parties. Beyond written content, other forms of media such as photographs, audio, and video clips are also admissible as part of court records.
What is a Family Court in Maine?
Maine District courts have family divisions, which are tasked with handling family-related lawsuits, they are often presided by a single judge without a juror system. In some cases, family meditation is considered a suitable alternative to family courts.
What Cases are Heard by Family Courts?
The Family Court Division in the Maine District Court mostly determines the outcome of domestic disputes centered around parent-to-parent and parent-to-ward relationships. Rule 100 of the Maine Family Court Division defines the scope of cases handled, and this includes the following;
- Guardianship ad Litem (GAL)
- Name Change
- Restraining Order Against Domestic Violence
- Marriage Dissolution
How to Serve Family Court Papers in Maine
The Plaintiff or petitioner initiates the procedure for serving family court papers in Maine. The procedure starts with the filing of court forms at the District Court Clerk's office or other court locations in Maine. Petitioners can, however, fill out an electronic version of the court form on the Maine Family Court official website. Moreover, it's advisable to fill out an Affidavit for Confidential Address for safety precautions from the defendant.
In addition, petitioners can obtain Family Matters Summon forms via the District Clerk office at a small fee. A filing fee of $120.00 is necessary for initiating the court process. Nevertheless, petitioners can apply for a waiver by tendering an Application to Proceed Without Payment
Who Can Serve Family Court Papers in Maine
The petitioner or plaintiff can serve the court papers in Maine. The Family Court clerk issues the summons, which is subsequently served by the petitioner to the concerned parties. There are instances where the plaintiff is unable to serve the defendant through conventional means such as the use of First Class Mails or physical meetings. In such instances, petitioners may enlist other means, such as the use of publications or leaving a copy of the service at the defendant's legal residence. Once the court papers are prepared, the petitioner will proceed by serving the court papers to the other party, the defendant, in most cases. The defendant, in turn, may file a written response such as a Counterclaim or an Entry of Appearance form within 3 weeks of receiving the court orders.
What is Contempt of Court in Family Law in Maine
Basically, contempt of court is an offense that defies the authority and dignity of a court of law through acts of defiance and disobedience to the court of law and its officers.
Reasons for Contempt of Court
According to Maine Family Law Statutes, contempt of court is filed when a person fails to comply with a direct court order during court proceedings. More so, a person can also file a contempt of court motion when the defaulting party fails to comply with disclosure subpoenas.
In addition, the court of law can subpoena the person held in contempt to enforce the contempt hearing. The issued subpoena contains the title, date, and location for the person to appear for a contempt hearing. Failure to comply with the contempt subpoena will result in the arrest, and subsequently, the imposing of either a fine or prison sentence.
Types of Contempt
There are basically two types of contempt based on the location of the offense - direct and indirect contempt of court. Direct contempt occurs in the presence of the court, and it is an act intended to disrespect the court. For example, refusing to answer the judge's question is a direct contempt. Conversely, Indirect contempt occurs outside the court premises, and its intention is also to malign, belittle, and obstruct the court proceedings.
In the case of non-compliance to a court order, the defaulting party stands the risk of facing either a criminal or a civil contempt. The former stands as the unfavorable of the two options since it comes with a harsh consequence for disobeying a court order. Criminal contempt comes with no waivers and conditions; defaulters are being punished for an action that has already occurred. For example, refusal of a defaulting party to pay alimony or child support after receiving a contempt subpoena will result in the filing of criminal contempt.
Alternatively, Maine Family Court files a civil contempt motion to enforce compliance in the form of punitive sanctions or remedial sanctions. Rule 66 paragraph 3 states imprisonment of up to 30 days and fines not larger than $5,000 for punitive sanctions. Remedial sanctions, alternatively. The motion forces the defaulter to take corrective actions to their misconduct.
Are Family Records Public in Maine?
Yes, the majority of Maine family records are available to the public. However, personal information linked to minors may be redacted for safety. In addition, records containing personal information of minors are only available upon request by the legal counsel of the concerned department. Maine Family Court also enables optional disclosure of records to the Police, Parents and Caretakers, and Physicians of the affected ward. Furthermore, Social Security Numbers (SSN) are also, for security reasons, unavailable to the public.
Are Maine Divorce Records Sealed or Public Records?
Maine divorce records are public, and interested persons can easily procure these records. These divorce records are available from 1892, and interested parties can get a copy from the County Clerk's office. However, Interested parties cannot get access to these divorce records without proper information and identification.
Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.
How Do I Find Divorce Records in Maine?
Interested persons can get access to divorce records at the county where the divorce took place. Interested parties can also procure these records from the Maine Division of Vital Records. Information required to access these records include the following;
- Photo identification
- Date of the divorce
- Names of the concerned parties on the divorce records.
- The county of the divorce
The office, in question, provides non-certified copies to anyone who requires them. The certified copies, however, are provided to those who are directly involved in the divorce case.
How to Request Family Court Records in Maine?
Interested persons can access Maine family court records in different formats namely; Online and In Person. Interested parties will submit a Record Search Request form either online or offline. Interested parties are mandated to pay a fee of $20 per search. However, payment exemptions are created for the following categories ;
- Those who are directly involved in the case.
- Intra and Inter-state agencies that handle general government functions such as Courts, Departments of Health and Health Services, and the State District Attorney Office.
Requesting for an online copy is a fast way of getting access to these records, as opposed to going to the nearest district county clerk office. By tendering the required documents at the District County Clerk office, interested parties can download the necessary vital records from the official website of the Office of Vital Records.
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.