Family Court Erred in Not Making Written Findings of Fact in Relocation Case – Published Opinion from Kentucky Court of Appeals

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Childress v. Hart

 

Mother relocated to Jefferson County from Hardin County, enrolling Child in a new school and various extracurricular activities. Due to the relocation, Father filed a motion requesting (1) Child be enrolled in an elementary school in Hardin County; (2) Child reside in Hardin County; (3) to enforce the previous parenting schedule; and (4) that he be awarded parenting time in accordance with the Hardin Family Court rules. Family Court held a hearing and issued oral findings of fact and conclusions of law, concluding that relocation was not in Child’s best interest, because it found “[W]hat bothers me is that [Child] has been removed from schoolmates . . . and uprooted from something she is accustomed to and that’s why I ruled against [Mother] leaving the state. But it’s also the fact [Child] is leaving her little schoolmates; kids she’s probably known for a while and it wasn’t really necessary.” Family Court then issued a summary written order that did not include any findings of fact or the best interest standard. Mother appealed.

 

Mother argued that Family Court erred by failing to issue written findings of fact regarding whether relocation was in Child’s best interest. Father argued that no findings of fact were necessary, because this was an issue of relocation under FCRPP 7 and not a modification of custody or parenting time requiring a findings related to the best interest standard. The Court of Appeals vacated and remanded Family Court’s order, holding that CR 52.01 requires a trial court to include its found facts in a written order. It reasoned that relocation requires a best interest analysis, a conclusion of law, requiring a trial court to set forth its written finding of facts supporting the conclusion.

 

Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon