Domestic violence respondent provided full evidentiary hearing when given the opportunity to testify as to her potential status as a domestic violence victim – published opinion from the Ky. Court of Appeals

Gavel and Scale

Williford v. Williford

Husband awoke hearing Wife outside talking on the phone to Wife’s sister, stating that she was going to “go in there and get him in an argument and blow his head off.” Neither Husband nor Wife owned a firearm, but Husband took the threat seriously. Husband woke his three daughters to listen to the conversation, who urged Husband to leave the house out of fear. Husband called 911, and a sheriff deputy came to the home. After a conversation with the deputy, Wife was instructed to leave the premises after admitting she made the statements and threatened Husband. Husband filed a petition for an order of protection.

A hearing was held where husband and the parties’ 19-year-old daughter testified about the events that transpired, and that they had heard Wife threaten Husband in the past. Wife’s sister also testified that Wife made the threatening remarks, but that she never knew Wife to own a gun and never inquired as to whom “him” was. Wife then testified, corroborating Husband and their daughter’s testimony. She also began to testify that Husband had assaulted her on many occasions throughout their relationship, but she never reported it. However, the court narrowed her testimony when it became clear that no evidence regarding her status as a potential victim could be gleaned from her testimony except for her recollections. The family court entered a domestic violence order.

Wife argued that the family court denied her a full evidentiary hearing by not allowing her to present testimony concerning the parties’ relationship, with which the Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the family court allowed the testimony and only ended that line of questioning when it became clear that no evidence, except Wife’s recollections, could be gleaned from her testimony, as a potential domestic violence victim.

Wife also argued that there was not sufficient proof beyond a preponderance of the evidence that domestic violence and abuse occurred or that it may occur again. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding Husband, their daughter, and Wife all gave similar accounts of the phone conversation, and only Wife’s sister may have disagreed as to the target of the threats. It held that it was not clearly erroneous for the family court to find Husband and the parties’ daughter’s testimony about the threats “‘[e]vidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support the conclusion.’”

Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon

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