Dependency exemption, child care cost, exceptions to commissioner's report-published family law opinion from Ky Court of Appeals



Family court dissolved the marriage of Husband and Wife with three children after a DRC recommendation and evidentiary hearing. Each party filed exceptions to the DRC report, the Court sustained one and overruled the rest. Wife raised several issues on appeal.


First, Wife argues that the DRC improperly adopted the findings and conclusions tendered by Husband. The Court of Appeals disagrees as the Supreme Court allows use of tendered findings and conclusions, as long as the Court does not abdicate “their responsibility to make required findings of fact and conclusions of law in this case.” In this case, a property evidentiary hearing was held, and the family court properly subjected the DRC findings to full review granting exceptions when necessary after review of the record.


Second, Wife next argues that the family court failed to “consider claims of domestic violence and neglect in granting of joint split physical custody of the Children.” The Court of Appeals again disagrees finding the family court properly considered all relevant evidence.


Next, Wife argues that the family court “erred by failing to order the parties to share the cost of child care in proportion to their respective incomes.” Again, the Court of Appeals disagrees holding that in cases that deviate from the Kentucky Child Support Guidelines “the trial court also has the discretion to deviate from a proportionate division of child care expenses.”


Fourth, Wife argues the family court erred in awarding the children-related tax exemption to Husband although Wife has more parenting time. The Court of Appeals agrees holding that the family court failed to “meet the [Adams-Smyrichinksy] ‘heavy burden’ to justify why the assignment of the exemption to [Husband] inures to the children’s benefit.”


Finally, Wife argues the family court abused its discretion in awarding Husband both marital vehicles. The Court of Appeals agrees holding that the family court’s findings do not specify how the award constitutes a “just division of the limited marital property in this case.” Although Wife’s parenting loaned her a car, and she may not use the marital vehicle while the children are young, the assignment of Husband was an abuse of discretion.


Digested by Elizabeth M. Howell