Judge’s Recusal in Divorce Action Requires Recusal in Domestic Violence Action – Published Family Law Opinion from Ky. Court of Appeals



Judge recused herself from a divorce action, after a DVO hearing, but before issuing an Order dismissing the DVO. Wife then filed motions arguing Judge should be recused from the DV case as well because she had recused herself in the divorce. The Judge denied Wife’s motions. Wife appealed arguing that “the court abused its discretion in denying her Petition for a DVO” and that the Judge “should have disqualified herself with respect to the DVO.”

The court first turns to the recusal issue. The Court of Appeals holds that when the Judge disqualified herself from the divorce, she lost jurisdiction in the DV matter. The Court of Appeals bases its decision on “very purpose” of family courts – the one family, one Judge concept..  The divorce case and the DVO were still ongoing at the time of the Judge’s recusal, therefore, recusal in one required recusal in all. As the Judge had no jurisdiction at the time she entered the Order dismissing the DVO, the Order Wife appealed from is void.

Although the DVO dismissal is void, the Court of Appeals notes that the trial court misconstrued KRS 403.720, noting Kentucky Courts liberally construe domestic violence statutes to allow victims who are reasonably in fear of immediate physical injury relief. They clarify that even potential psychological damage is encompassed by the domestic violence statutes.

Digested by Elizabeth M. Howell

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