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Maine Family Law: An Overview

Simple family feuds and big life events naturally carry legal implications you may be unaware of. A dispute over which sibling inherits the family home or which parent the child will reside with after a divorce requires knowledge of Maine’s family laws and, often times, counseling from an experienced attorney.

If you have a family law case in Portland, Bangor, Lewiston or elsewhere in Maine, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo’s Maine Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family.

If you need help navigating the complex laws governing your case, a Maine family law attorney can help and treat your case with the sensitivity it deserves.

Maine Domestic Violence Protections

Domestic violence is a serious issue that’s too often unreported by victims. While there are many common excuses a victim may make to dismiss or downplay the abuse, the fact remains that domestic violence represents a critical health and personal liberty issue for victims. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, there are resources available for immediate relief and legal protection.

Law enforcement officers may provide protective and medical assistance services onsite, as well as information for legal protections. There are also state services like the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence that provides information on help hotlines and emergency shelters.

You can apply for a Protection from Abuse (PA) order, which will protect you and/or your children from the abusive family member or intimate partner through legal and law enforcement intervention. A temporary emergency PA order may be issued until a long-term order is issued from a Maine District Court after a hearing.

Maine Marriage Requirements

Marriage is both a personal matter and a legal issue in Maine. The state’s marriage laws primarily concern themselves with each party’s ability to freely consent to the marriage. Other legal concerns include the health of the family unit and of the community. To address these concerns, Maine prohibits certain marriages, including those:

  • Between an unmarried party and a party with a living partner from whom they have yet to divorce.
  • In which one party is a legally incapacitated person unless the party’s appointed guardian approves of the marriage.
  • Between family members, up to and including ancestors and descendants and first cousins. However, first cousins may marry each other if they can provide a physician’s certificate of genetic counseling.
  • In which either party is under 18 years of age unless they attain written parental/guardian consent.
  • In which either party is under 16 years of age unless they attain both written parental/guardian consent and judicial consent.

State law prohibits residents or potential residents from getting married outside of Maine to circumvent the state’s marriage requirements and prohibitions. Any attempt to do so will void the marriage within Maine.

Maine Divorce Fault Grounds

Maine is a partial “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that one party (the petitioner) could file for divorce claiming that neither party is responsible for ending the marriage or that the other party’s (the respondent) marital misconduct is the reason for the divorce. Whether the petitioner chooses to file for divorce based on marital fault grounds or not affects other parts of the divorce process, such as property distribution and spousal support (alimony).

When you file for a no-fault divorce, you’re alleging that the marriage failed due to irreconcilable differences between you and your partner. The respondent can either agree or disagree to this allegation. If they disagree, the court may motion for professional counseling to determine whether the marriage can be salvaged.

A fault-based divorce is one in which the petitioner alleges that the marriage failed based on one of eight statutory fault grounds, including adultery or cruel and abusive treatment.

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