Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of prohibition to stay a child custody order entered by the circuit court pending her appeal, holding that the court of appeals correctly held that the extraordinary relief of a writ of prohibition was not warranted.The trial court ordered that Appellant's two minor children relocate from their residence with Appellant in Mississippi to live with their father in Kentucky. In her petition for writ of prohibition, Appellant argued, among other things, that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter the relocation order. The court of appeals denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant was not entitled to a first-class writ because the trial court acted within its jurisdiction; and (2) Appellant was not entitled to a second-class writ because Appellant had an opportunity for recourse through her direct appeal. View "Lawson v. Woeste" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over a modification of the parenting schedule for two minor children the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision finding that the family court's admission and reliance upon certain statements by the court-appointed Friend-of-Court investigator (FOC) was harmless error, holding that the family court did not commit prejudicial error in admitting and considering the FOC's statements.Father filed a motion for modification of the parenting schedule requesting that he become the primary residential custodian of the parties' two children. At a bench trial, the FOC testified as to her observations and findings from her previous investigation and report. The family court ordered that the children remain living with Mother. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) hearsay statements contained within an FOC's investigative report that do not fall within a recognized hearsay exception are nonetheless admissible as evidence in a domestic custody proceeding where the notice and procedural requirements comply with Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.300(3); and (2) a family court's appointment of an FOC to investigate and generate a report under section 403.300 amounts to a determination that the FOC is sufficiently qualified to offer opinion evidence concerning the fitness of a parent and child's custody arrangements. View "Greene v. Boyd" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing a portion of an order of the family court that modified the parties' timesharing arrangement and recalculated child support, holding that the court of appeals erred.The family court issued an order modifying the parties' timesharing arrangement and holiday schedule and recalculating child support. The court of appeals affirmed the modification of the holiday scheduled but otherwise reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals as to the issues before the Court, holding (1) the court of appeals incorrectly interpreted and applied Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.270 and Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.320; (2) the family court did not err in modifying the timesharing schedule; and (3) the family court did not err in calculating child support based on the parties' stated salaries and in declining to impute income to Wife for gifts received from her parents. View "Layman v. Bohanon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals ruling that the family court abused its discretion by granting Father visitation with his child, holding that substantial evidence supported the family court's findings of fact.In a dissolution of marriage action, the family court granted Mother temporary sole custody of the parties' child. Father later filed a motion to modify the established custody order, arguing that it would be in the child's best interest to have visitation with him. The family court judge granted Father's motion to gradually establish visitation. Mother moved the family court to alter, amend, or vacate its order. The family court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the family court did not abuse its discretion by finding that an incremental visitation and reunification plan between Father and the child was in the child's best interest. View "B.S.S. v. K.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the family court naming Terry Garvin and Donna Krieger K.R.K.'s de facto custodians and awarding them sole permanent custody, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that individuals who are members of an unmarried couple cannot both be deemed as a child's de facto custodians.The family court named as K.R.K.'s de facto custodians Terry, K.R.K.'s maternal grandfather, and his long-term girlfriend, Donna, with whom he cohabited, and awarded them sole permanent custody. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the family court erred in naming more than one individual as K.R.K.'s de facto custodian. Specifically, the court held that because Terry and Donna were unmarried, they could not qualify as a single unit for purposes of Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.270. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Terry and Donna were not precluded form being K.R.K.'s de facto custodians simply because they were an unmarried couple. View "Krieger v. Marvin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating and remanding the family court's decision determining that K.S.'s son was a neglected child and terminating K.S.'s parental rights, holding that the family court's decision was supported by clear and convincing evidence.In vacating the family court's judgment terminating the parental rights of K.S. the court of appeals concluded that the evidence was insufficient to prove the child was neglected because K.S. never had the opportunity to parent the child independently where the child had always been committed to the custody of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred to the extent it held there must be actual past or present abuse or neglect for a trial court to make a finding of abuse or neglect because proof of a potential threat of abuse or neglect is sufficient to support such a finding; and (2) the family court's decision to terminate K.S.'s parental rights was supported by the record. View "Commonwealth v. K.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that the family court erred in declining to conduct a special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) hearing at the disposition phase of a dependency, neglect and abuse case regarding an unaccompanied Guatemalan child, holding that Kentucky courts are not required to engage in SIJ status factfinding.The family court determined that it was without the jurisdictional authority to undertake SIJ findings because such findings were not relevant to the core dependency, neglect, and abuse issues before the court. The mother appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by not making the findings required for SIJ status. The court of appeals agreed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the General Assembly has not specifically directed Kentucky's courts to make SIJ findings, and therefore, the family could need not make additional findings relevant to the child's SIJ classification, upon request, in every case; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the proper place for SIJ status factfinding was in federal immigration court. View "Commonwealth v. N.B.D." on Justia Law

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In this dependency, neglect, and abuse proceeding the Supreme Court vacated the order of the court of appeals reversing the family court's decision denying an indigent mother's request for expert funding and finding the child to be a neglected child, holding that the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction.After the family court made a finding of neglect, the mother failed timely to file her notice of appeal. The family court, however, permitted a belated appeal, citing excusable neglect. In reversing the family court's expert funding decision, the court of appeals found that the mother's due process rights were impacted by her inability to hire an expert. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' order, holding that the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the mother's appeal because the mother failed timely to file her appeal, and there was no excusable neglect in this case. View "Commonwealth v. H.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' decision holding that the family court erred in declining to conduct a special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) hearing at the disposition phase of a dependency, neglect and abuse case regarding an unaccompanied Guatemalan child (Child), holding that the Kentucky General Assembly has not specifically directed Kentucky's courts to make SIJ findings.Child was detained by United States immigration authorities in Arizona and temporarily placed with a cousin pending immigration proceedings. An adult resident of Newport, Kentucky filed a dependency petition in the Campbell County Family Court regarding Child. The court concluded that it was without the jurisdictional authority to undertake SIJ findings because such findings were not relevant to the core dependency, neglect, and abuse matters before the court. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Kentucky courts are not required to make additional findings related to SIJ classification unless the court first determines that the evidence to be gathered from such a hearing is relevant to the child's best interests. View "Commonwealth, Cabinet for Health & Family Services v. N.B.D." on Justia Law

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In this custody dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's finding that Appellant qualified as the child's de facto custodian under Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.270, holding that Appellant did not qualify as the child's de facto custodian and lacked standing to assert custodial rights.The circuit court granted temporary custody of the child to Appellant and Dixie Meinders. Later, it was discovered that Keith Middleton was the child's biological father. Keith moved to transfer custody and later filed a civil action seeking custody of the child. Appellant was granted custody. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Appellant did not qualify for de facto custodian status. The Supreme Court held (1) the time period required for de facto custodian status under section 403.270 must be continuous, rather than aggregated; (2) any active participation by a parent in a custody proceeding evincing a desire to regain custody is sufficient to toll the requisite de facto custodian time period under section 403.270; (3) neither Appellant nor Dixie qualified as the child's de facto custodian, and both lacked standing to assert custodial rights; and (4) custody should be placed with Keith where the mother agreed that sole custody be placed with him. View "Meinders v. Middleton" on Justia Law