October 23, 2015 Published Family Law Opinion from Ky Court of Appeals: Required Child Custody Findings

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Grandparents assumed care of children, with the exception of a special needs child, after biological mother and biological father were both incarcerated. The special needs child was placed with friend of grandparents equipped to deal with his special medical needs. Grandparents filed motion to be designated as de facto custodians and for permanent custody of all three children. Biological father consented to grandparent’s motion for permanent custody and waived his right to appear at the hearing. After a hearing on the matter, the family court awarded grandparents permanent custody, finding biological father had waived his rights, biological mother was unfit to have custody, and it was in the best interest of the children for grandparents to have custody, although the grandparents were not de facto custodians.

Biological mother argues that the family court failed to prove she was an unfit parent, and therefore there are no grounds to award permanent custody to a non-parent. The court merely stated “The mother has a serious substance abuse problem,” while the mother provided testimony she as attended AA meetings, was sober, had passed all drug tests, maintained full-time employment, and cared for the children for almost the entire month of June after being released from prison. As the family court provided a conclusory statement regarding mother’s unfitness, and made no other findings of fact, the Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the order granting grandparents custody. Although not necessary, the Court of Appeals also notes the family court did not conduct a proper best interest analysis, as the court failed to address the factors set forth in KRS 403.270.

Digested by Elizabeth M. Howell

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