Chappell v. Chappell, Interview of Child in Custody Proceeding, KY COA

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Raymond Keith Chappell v. Brenda Marie Chappell, 2009-CA-000634-MR

Issues:  Whether Trial Court is required to interview child in chambers

to ascertain child’s preference as to his custodian and visitation.

Published:  Affirmed.

County:  Allen


Parties were married in 1994 and had three children.  They separated in January, 2007 and trial court entered temporary joint custody order designating Mother as primary residential custodian.  Decree was entered in October, 2007 and hearings were conducted in September, October and November, 2008.  In January, 2009, court issued findings of fact, conclusions of law and judgment awarding parties joint custody with Mother primary residential custodian.


Father appealed, contending TC abused its discretion and deprived him of a fair hearing before reaching determination of custody.  CA held that KRS 403.290(1) provides that the court “may interview” a child in chambers regarding custody and visitation, the language of the statute is permissive, not mandatory.  Thus, the court’s decision is discretionary.


Father further contended that the TC erred by failing to designate him as primary residential custodian.  Trial Court found that father’s witnesses exaggerated their criticisms of Mother’s parenting skills and home environment and failed to present any reliable evidence to support his claim that children were endangered when in care of Mother.


After finding that Mother had been primarily responsible for child-rearing, children were doing well in private, parochial school, and both parents maintained suitable homes, the TC concluded it was in the best interest of children for Mother to be designated as primary residential custodian and CA found no abuse of Trial Court’s considerable discretion.


Finally, father contended the Trial Court erred in its distribution of marital property because it relied on an appraisal that father believed inflated the value of the marital residence.  The Court of Appeals reviewed the appraisal and found no error that had a material impact on the fair market value because it utilized a comparison approach, not a cost approach.


Digested by Sandra G. Ragland, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates

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