Ky Published Opinion – Emergency Custody, DeFacto Custodian, and Grandparent Visitation

Grandparent

ROBISON V. THEELE, ET AL.

Mother lived with her parents (hereinafter “grandparents”), and passed away after treatment for cancer, which mother underwent during dissolution proceedings. Father exercised visitation regularly during the proceedings and mother’s cancer treatment. At the time of the Mother’s death, the Trial Court awarded Grandparents a “status quo ex parte” order to keep Father’s visitation in place. Subsequently, the Trial Court awarded de facto custodian status to Grandparents, gave Grandparents sole custody, and granted Father supervised visitation with his children. The Trial Court did not make findings supporting its Judgement. The Appellate Court vacated and remanded the Trial Court’s Judgement.

First, the Appellate Court holds there is no authority for a “status quo ex parte” order, The Trial Court should have followed the KRS 620.060(3) procedure which provides for an emergency custody order. Second, they hold there were no findings to support the Trial Court’s award of de facto custodianship to Grandparents and reiterate the superior rights of natural parents. The Appellate Court also holds that the dissolution proceedings between Father and Mother tolled the time period required for the grandparents to establish their de facto custodian claim, as custody issues were contested in the divorce proceeding. Finally, the Appellate Court holds the Trial Court did not make the requite findings to award grandparent visitation which must overcome the presumption that a parent acts in the child’s best interest when denying grandparent visitation.

Digested by Elizabeth Howell

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