Lane v. Caudill-Lane (KY) Custody, Supervised Visitation, and Attorney Fees

UPDATE: We were late getting this digest posted. The Kentucky Supreme Court, however, denied discretionary review and ordered that the Court of Appeals decision not be published.
Lane v. Caudill-Lane, 2007 WL 2459269

Dad appealed TC order awarding sole custody to Mom and requiring Dad’s visits to be supervised. Additionally, Dad appealed TC’s order awarding Mom attorney’s fees.
CA upheld the award of custody and attorney’s fees but overturned the supervised visitation.
CA opined, on the issue of custody, that there was sufficient evidence presented for the trial court to award sole custody. CA went on to state that an award of joint custody presumes that the parties can rise above their petty issues and do what is in the best interest of the child. A TC should not assume that because parties are antagonistic during a divorce that they will not be able to rise above it in the future. However, in the instant case, the CA reasoned that it did not appear from the record that the parties possessed the necessary emotional maturity to ensure joint custody would be in the child’s best interest.
Regarding the issue of visitation, CA held that there was not substantial evidence to warrant limiting Dad’s visitation and TC used the wrong standard in making its decision. The appropriate standard for restricting visitation is whether the visitation would “seriously endanger the child”. There was testimony presented that, among other things, Dad had called a phone sex line, that he had visited pornography websites, and that he had watched pornographic movies. However, none of this occurred in the presence of the child. There was no evidence presented that such activity would harm the child. CA stated that there may be situations in which this type of behavior would endanger a child but there was no evidence presented that Dad’s behavior would “seriously endanger the child”.
On the issue of attorney’s fees, CA held that the decision to award attorney’s fees is completely in the discretion of the TC. The only requirement is that the court consider the financial resources of the parties.
Digested by Linda Dixon Bullock, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates