This Article examines the sources of the contemporary problems associated with the adjudication of parental rights matters in Maine's probate courts and identifies specific reforms to address both the structural and substantive law problems. The Article first reviews the development of Maine's probate courts and their jurisdiction over parental rights matters. It traces the expansion of jurisdiction over children and families from a limited role incidental to the administration of a decedent's estate to the current scope—a range of matters that may result in the limitation, suspension, or termination of the rights of living parents. Maine's probate courts not adjudicate questions implicating parental rights in a wide range of scenarios. However, the basic structure of Maine's probate courts has remained unchanged since 1855. Maine law assigns exclusive jurisdiction of these often complex and contentious matters to a non-centralized group of county-based courts, each of which has limited resources and a single, part-time elected judge who usually has a busy law practice as his or her primary job.
Deirdre M. Smith,
From Orphans to Families in Crisis: Parental Rights Matters in Maine Probate Courts,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol68/iss1/11