A child custody battle has been brewing in Maine for the past six years.
The battle began when the parents of "M.M." divorced in 2008 and the mother received primary custody of the child with parents equally sharing parental rights.
Unhappy with that decision, the father later sought custody, and a district court awarded him sole parental rights but noted that the mother had the right to frequent visitation.
The custody struggle was far from over.
Petitioners Allege Child Abuse Against the Father
In 2013, four petitioners who were unrelated to the child - the mother's investigator and three private citizens who had no legal or familial relationship to the child - filed a petition for a child protection order and alleged the father abused M.M. The petitioners also sought a preliminary protection order granting custody to the mother.
A preliminary protective order can be issued upon the filing of a petition provided the request is supported by an affidavit or sworn testimony before a judge.
The petitioners provided the court with documented incidents of child abuse, including evidence that the father had assaulted the child's head with a metal pan, physically abused his second wife, and was unwilling to allow the mother to visit her child.
The court dismissed the petition and denied their request. The judge determined that the petitioners lacked legal standing and that the claims asserted by the petitioners were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Res judicata is Latin for "a matter already judged."
Displeased with that decision, the petitioners appealed to the State Supreme Court.