Discretionary Review Pending In Appeal From Confirmation Of Four Year Old DRC Report (KY)

Thomas v. Thomas, 2004 CA-001997-MR, designated not to be published, discretionary review granted.

Issue and Holding:
Whether the trial court erred in denying wife an evidentiary hearing and adopting the Domestic Relations Commissioner’s four year old recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Court held no, either party could have requested that the DRC make written recommendations, and neither chose to do so.

An interlocutory decree was entered in November 1999. A hearing was held on the remaining issues in April 2000. At the conclusion of the hearing the DRC made oral findings of fact on all issues. The wife’s attorney was to then put the DRC’s oral findings into written form. The DRC’s Recommended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law was not entered until June 2004. The wife then filed exceptions to the DRC’s recommendations, arguing that due to the DRC’s delay and subsequent changes in the parties’ circumstances that additional proof needed to be taken. The trial court heard the exceptions in August 2004, and then adopted the DRC’s recommendations in their entirety in September 2004. The wife appealed, arguing that the trial court should have allowed her to present evidence as to why enforcement of the DRC’s recommendations would be inequitable.

While the DRC failed to comply with KRS 454.350(2), both parties were aware of what the DRC’s recommendations were going to be. The DRC’s written recommendations were the same as his oral findings made four years earlier. Either party could have requested that the DRC make written recommendations, and neither chose to do so. Affirmed.

Huddleston, Senior Judge, Dissented.
The four year delay is unconscionable. The parties’ circumstances had obviously changed over that period of time. The trial court should have conducted a hearing to receive updated information rather than summarily adopting the DRC’s four year old report and recommendations.
Digested by Sarah Jost Nielsen, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates