Adoption, Guardianship of a Minor, Child Name Change and Maine's Home Court Act: When, where and how to file the Jurisdictional Affidavit
What is the Maine Home Court Act?
The Home Court Act is a Maine law passed in 2016. It is meant to prevent more than one case about the same child from happening in different courts. Courts use the Jurisdictional Affidavit to find out about all of the cases involving a child. They do this to make sure they are following the Act.
When do I need to file a Jurisdictional Affidavit?
If you are filing an adoption, guardianship, or name change case for a child, you will either need to file it in the District or Probate Court, depending on whether or not there are other cases involving that child. When you file your case, you will also need to file the Jurisdictional Affidavit. There are two versions of this form.
What is the difference between the District Court and Probate Court?
The Maine District Court is part of the state court system. It hears all kinds of cases about children. The Probate Court is a county-based court. Both kinds of courts can hear guardianship, adoption, or name change cases. This form is important for figuring out which court you can file your case in.
Where do I file my adoption, minor guardianship, or minor name change case?
A court must have jurisdiction (power) to hear and decide your case. The Probate Court does not have jurisdiction for these kinds of cases if there is already a pending case or transferred case involving the child in the District Court. If the Probate Court does not have jurisdiction, then you will need to file your guardianship, adoption, or name change case in District Court.
If you are filing in the District Court, it also needs to know if there are any pending cases in a Probate Court that will need to be transferred to the District Court.
You can use the guide below to figure out which court you will need to file in. There are definitions for some of the specific legal terms in the "How do I fill out the Jurisdictional Affidavit?" section of this guide. Once you have that figured out, you can move on to filling out the correct Jurisdictional Affidavit:
How do I fill out the Jurisdictional Affidavit?
What is a “pending” case?
A pending case is a case that has already been filed with the court where not everything has been decided. This means that there are still things going on like:
- scheduled hearings
- conferences, or
If the judge still needs to make a final judgment or order, the case is pending. If the court has entered an order and there aren't other things the court needs to do, then the case is not pending.
What is a “transferred” case?
A transferred case is one that was started in the Probate Court and then sent to the District Court. It can be either pending or not pending.
What is a case “concerning” the child?
There are many kinds of family law cases that are about, or "concerning" a child. Some examples are:
- divorce or parental rights cases between the child’s parents;
- a protective custody case (a child welfare case involving the Department of Health and Human Services);
- a Protection from Abuse case where the custody of a child is an issue;
- Grandparents Visitation Act case;
- adoption; or,
- a parentage or paternity case, like where DHHS is seeking child support.
What if I’m not sure if there are any pending or transferred cases concerning the child?
If you don’t know if there are cases concerning the child, you may be able to find out by calling the District or Probate Court. Call the court where you think the case would have been filed. You can also check with someone who was involved in the case, like a parent.
What if I learn about a pending or transferred case concerning the child after I sign the form?
You should tell the District or Probate Court about the case as soon as possible.
What if I’m wrong about whether there are any pending or transferred cases concerning the child? Will I be in trouble?
As long as you answer the questions truthfully, you haven't done anything wrong. Answer honestly based on your knowledge, information, and belief at the time you sign the form. You should tell the District or Probate Court about incorrect information on this form as soon as you learn that you made a mistake.
What is a “judgment or order” issued by a court “that currently affects the care and custody of the child(ren)?”
This is a document that has been signed by a judge or magistrate having to do with the child. Like:
What if I don’t know if there is a “judgment or order” issued by a court “that currently affects the care and custody of the child(ren)?”
If you don’t know if there is a judgment or order about the child, you may be able to find out by calling the District or Probate Court. Call the court where you think the case would have been handled.
What if I know there is a judgment or order, but I don’t have a copy to attach to the form?
Get a copy if you can. If you can’t get one or don’t know how to do that, include as much information as you have about it on the form.
What are the “child(ren)’s legal parent” or “guardian”?
These are the people who are listed on the child’s birth certificate or have been involved in a court or other case about the child.
How do I get the form notarized?
Getting the form "notarized" just means that a person called a Notary Public will witness you sign the form. They will sign and stamp it to prove to the court that it was you who signed it. Many towns have a notary. You can also find a notary at a bank or law office, or the court clerk's office. There might be a small fee, but some notaries do not charge.
Published June, 2017