Court finds Aunt had standing to seek visitation of nephew, matter reversed and remanded– Published Opinion from Ky. Court of Appeals

F.B. v. E.B., et al.

Butler Circuit Court

Child was born in June 2014.  The Mother of the Child, E.B., faced criminal drug charges in 2016. With the Child’s father incarcerated and instability caused by the pending charges, the Mother turned to the Child’s Aunt, F.E., asking if the Child could live with the Aunt for an undefined period of time. The Aunt agreed, and filed a dependency, neglect, and abuse petition on the Child’s behalf, pursuant to KRS 620.070. After a hearing on the matter, where the Mother testified she was unable to provide adequate care for the Child, the Aunt was granted temporary custody of the Child. As the Mother’s situation became more stable, she was granted visitation with the Child, and in 2018, the Child was returned to the Mother’s custody. The order granting the Mother custody, however, also provided the Aunt visitation with the Child every other weekend, which the Mother did not object to at that time. This visitation schedule was adhered to until February 2020, when the Mother filed a motion requesting the family court terminate the Aunt’s visitation rights. The family court granted the Mother’s motion, not considering the merits of the case, but on the basis that the Aunt did not have standing to seek visitation with the Child. The Aunt appealed.

The Court reviewed the matter de novo and determined that the order granting the Aunt visitation rights in 2018 provided her the standing necessary to participate in this matter. By virtue of the order, the Aunt had a substantial interest in the outcome of the Mother’s motion. Additionally, because the Mother did not object to the visitation order at the time it was entered, she effectively waived her rights to contest the Aunt’s statutory standing. Having never been fully adjudicated on the merits, the matter was therefore reversed and remanded to the family court, for it to make specific finding with respect to the best interest factors under KRS 403.320(3).

K. Spencer Pierson

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