Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court finding the two children in this case to be neglected children and the court’s order requiring in-home supervision by the children’s mother of all contact with them by their father, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. Father had a history of criminal convictions for sexually abusing his underage half-brother and a failure to comply with conditions of probation. After Father married and had two children, the trial court adopted the recommendation of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services that Father have supervised contact with his sons, with whom he and Mother shared a home. Finding that Father still placed the children at risk of harm, the trial court concluded that the parents had neglected their children by creating or allowing to be created a risk of injury or sexual abuse. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that “a finding of neglect cannot be sustained solely on a child living with a biological parent who is a registered sex offender.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion finding that the parents neglected their two sons. View "Cabinet for Health & Family Services v. R.S." on Justia Law

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At issue in this visitation dispute was whether the trial judge’s questioning of a teenage boy exceeded the bounds of Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.290(1). Father had physical custody of the parties’ two sons when Mother pursued timesharing. Father moved to suspend Mother’s visitation/timesharing rights based upon the boys’ sexual abuse allegations. The trial court suspended Mother’s visitation rights to her two sons after conducting an in camera interview in chambers with one of the boys. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the judge’s questioning exceeded the bounds of section 403.290(1) but that the error was harmless. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court’s in camera questioning did not exceed the bounds of section 403.290(1) because it is appropriate for the court to make detailed inquiries especially when allegations of sexual abuse are at issue and that Mother received the process she was due. View "May v. Harrison" on Justia Law

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In this custody and support action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing and remanding Laura Smith’s award of attorney’s fees, holding that the trial court acted within its discretion when assessing attorney’s fees against Jimmy McGill after considering the parties’ financial resources. Jimmy filed a motion to become the primary residential custodian of his and Laura’s two youngest daughters. The family court denied the motion. Laura then moved for attorney’s fees. The trial court then ordered Jimmy to pay a portion of Laura’s attorney’s fees. The court of appeals reversed and remanded as to this issue, determining that no actual disparity existed between the parties’ income to justify an award of attorney’s fees to Laura pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.220. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court followed the dictates of the statute and therefore did not err in its award of attorney’s fees. View "Smith v. McGill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court finding C.B.’s daughter to be a neglected child pursuant to the Kentucky Unified Juvenile Code and reinstated the orders of the circuit court, holding that substantial evidence supported the lower court’s finding of neglect. In reversing, the court of appeals found that the evidence supporting the circuit court’s orders was speculative and did not rise to the preponderance level and that the child could not be found to be neglected because C.B. had never exercised custodial control or supervision over the child. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the General Assembly drafted Ky. Rev. Stat. 600.020(1)(a) with the intention that a parent does not have to be exercising control or supervision in order to be found to have neglected or abused a child; and (2) the lower court’s finding of neglect was supported by substantial evidence. View "Cabinet for Health & Family Services v. C.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court declining to award post-judgment interest pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 360.040 in this action concerning a divorce judgment. Karen and James Samuel Doyle (Sam) were divorced in 1995. In 1998, the circuit court issued a judgment pertaining to reserved issues of child custody, support, and division of property. The judgment was silent as to interest. When Sam did make an equalization payment to Karen as ordered by circuit court, Karen filed a judgment lien against property owned by Sam, plus interest at the legal rate from 1998. In 2012, Sam moved to prohibit the collection of interest. The court granted the motion on the grounds that the 1998 judgment was unliquidated and the judgment was silent as to interest. Karen appealed, and the court of appeals reversed. On remand, the circuit court again denied an award of interest. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the balance of equities favored the statutory award of interest under the circumstances of this case. View "Doyle v. Doyle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals in this appeal brought by both parties from a judgment in a paternity action. The Court held (1) a paternity action can be brought by a private attorney, and therefore, the district court properly exercised jurisdiction over this case; (2) attorneys’ fees are not recoverable in paternity actions, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in ruling that Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.220 provided a statutory avenue for attorneys’ fees in this case; and (3) the court of appeals properly concluded that a trial court has the discretionary authority to allow credits of “excess” dependent benefits toward pre-petition liabilities, but rather than simply upholding the district court’s allowance of the credit, the case must be remanded for further factual findings and a renewed determination of whether that credit is appropriate. View "Seeger v. Lanham" on Justia Law

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In Kentucky, an attorney’s contingent-fee contracts should be considered marital property to be divided as part of the equitable division of the marital estate, and trial courts must apply the delayed-distribution method to determine the actual distribution of funds. Husband had an active law practice in which he had executed contingent-fee contracts with some clients. When Husband and Wife divorced, the trial court treated the contingent-fee contracts as a component of Husband’s income when received and not as property of the marital estate subject to division. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding (1) a contingent-fee contract in existence during the marriage does constitute marital property to be divided in a dissolution proceeding; and (2) trial court shall apply the delayed-division method to determine the distribution to the attorney and non-attorney ex-spouses. View "Grasch v. Grasch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the issuance of a domestic violence order (DVO) and remanded this case for additional proceedings, holding that the trial court’s receipt of extrajudicial evidence was structural error and that the trial court’s use of extrajudicial evidence from an undisclosed source was improper. Plaintiff petitioned the family court for a DVO against Defendant. The trial judge granted the DVO. Defendant appealed, challenging the trial court’s extrajudicial research concerning his criminal record. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court committed error in conducting the extrajudicial investigation but that the error was harmless. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial judge’s undertaking to obtain and use as evidence extrajudicial information relating to a party in the case caused her disqualification from proceeding further as the presiding judge, and her failure to recuse was structural error undermining the integrity of the resulting DVO. View "Marchese v. Abersold" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Husband filed a petition for dissolution of his marriage to Wife. The family court entered a decree of dissolution in 2013 that divided the parties’ marital assets, awarded the parties joint custody of their two children, and ordered Husband to pay maintenance to Wife in the amount of $7,300 per month for a period of nine years. The court of appeals reversed in part, finding that the family court erred by including a portion of the children’s living expenses in its calculation of Wife’s maintenance award and by failing to make findings that justified its award of maintenance for a period of nine years. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the family court’s decision to include the children’s living expenses in its calculation of Wife’s reasonable living expenses was neither clearly erroneous nor an abuse of discretion; (2) the family court acted within its discretion in awarding Wife maintenance for nine years; (3) the court of appeals did not err in affirming the family court’s calculation of Husband’s income; and (4) the court of appeals properly found the family court did not abuse its discretion in denying Wife’s request that Husband pay the entirety of her attorney’s fees. View "Weber v. Lambe" on Justia Law

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The circuit court entered an amended decree of dissolution dissolving the marriage of Husband and Wife and dividing the marital property. At issue in this appeal was the monthly disability benefits Husband received from the Connecticut State Employees Retirement System. The trial court determined that, because Kentucky was the domicile of both parties at the time of dissolution, Kentucky law governed the classification and distribution of the benefits. The court of appeals reversed after applying the “most significant relationship” test from Sections 258 and 259 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws, concluding that Connecticut had the most significant relationship to the asset and that the classification and distribution of those benefits should be determined under Connecticut law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the classification and division of all property in dissolution cases is governed by the law of forum - i.e., Kentucky. View "Kirilenko v. Kirilenko" on Justia Law