S.L.T. v. R.J.C.

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S.L.T. v. R.J.C., 196 S.W.3d 530 (Ky.App. 2006)

Issue and Holding:
Whether the trial court erred in issuing a domestic violence order. The Court held no, the trial court did not err because the evidence established that domestic violence had occurred and may occur again.

Facts:
The parties, never married, are the parents of one child. R.J.C, the mother, filed a domestic violence petition against the father, S.L.T., alleging that he sexually abused their child. The court issued several emergency protective orders to restrain the father from having contact with the mother or child. The court then held a hearing on both the domestic violence petition as well as a separate dependency action. At the hearing, the parties agreed to waive the hearing on the dependency action and scheduled further proceedings for a later date. However, it was noted that the initial sexual abuse allegations had been substantiated and that the investigation was still ongoing. Over the father’s objection, the court ordered him to have no contact with the child, who was to remain in the mother’s custody.
When the court proceeded with the hearing on the domestic violence petition, the father objected to any portion of the petition that contained hearsay. The court sustained the objection. The court then heard sworn testimony from the mother and a social worker. The mother testified that after she picked the child up from her father, the child immediately talked to her about the abuse, that the mother called 911 and had the child examined at a hospital, and that the mother had observed the child “hunching” things and talking about similar behavior. The social worker testified that she was present during the child’s interview and that the allegations had been substantiated. The court found that domestic violence had occurred and may occur again, and granted the DVO. The father appealed.

Analysis:
KRS 403.750 provides that a court may issue a DVO if after a hearing it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that domestic violence has occurred and may occur again. Under KRS 403.720(1) sexual abuse is included in the definition of domestic violence.
The Court found that the trial court did not base its ruling on hearsay, as the father argued. The trial court correctly based its ruling on the testimony of the mother and social worker, which adequately supported the court’s determination that a preponderance of the evidence showed that domestic violence had occurred and may occur again.
The Court affirmed the trial court’s order.

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