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Baldwin v. Mollette

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

August 25, 2017



          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: James Baldwin, pro se Northpoint Training Center Burgin, Kentucky




          CLAYTON, JUDGE.

         James Baldwin, pro se, appeals the Johnson Family Court's order denying him visitation with his children. No reply brief was filed on behalf of the Mollettes in this action. After careful review, we reverse and remand.


         James Baldwin is the father of K.P.M., a daughter, whose date of birth is June 13, 2007, and K.M.B., a son, whose date of birth is January 29, 2011. The children's mother is Kristian Mollette. Both parents have an extensive history involving the abuse of drugs. Because of the mother's substance abuse, the children were removed from the custody of the mother. At that time, the family court placed the children in the custody of the maternal grandparents, James and Debbie Mollette, who were named permanent custodians.

         This action commenced on September 9, 2016, when the father filed a motion for access and visitation with the children. In the motion, he described access to the children as the ability to telephone and email them as well as receive photographs. The father planned to use the J-Pay system at the prison for the exchange of photos, emails, and telephonic communication with the children.

         The family court held a hearing on October 13, 2016. The Mollettes appeared pro se. Because of the father's incarceration, he was available by telephone during the hearing. The family court also appointed him an attorney, who was present at the hearing. The father is serving a fifteen-year sentence at the North Point Training Center. His earliest possibility for parole would be in September 2017. He testified that he had not seen the children in three years. But the father claimed that he has tried to call the Mollettes and speak to the children, but they do not answer the phone. He acknowledged that he had not completed the classes which Social Services had required during the pendency of the juvenile action.

         Also testifying at the hearing was Shawn Mollette, the children's uncle. He appeared for James Mollette because he has James's power of attorney. James is a contractor working in Afghanistan. Shawn testified that he is uncomfortable with the father having visitation. The little boy does know his father, and the little girl has not spoken to her father in years. The father made no effort to contact the children until now. Further, Shawn explained that the father did not complete any tasks required by social services during the juvenile action. The father has been in and out of jail for years. Finally, Shawn did not believe visits to the penitentiary would be healthy for the children.

         Debbie Mollette testified next. In addition to the above information, she added that the father had promised to see the children on numerous occasions and did not show up. She disputed the father's contention that he called from Northpoint to inquire about the children. Additionally, Debbie believes that his daughter is terrified and wants no communication with her father. Debbie observed that the child was used as a shield during a domestic violence incident. And she pointed out that the little girl has been hurt because her father did not show up for scheduled visitations. Debbie noted that his son does not know him. Further, the father has paid no child support. Finally, Debbie alleged that on one occasion, he was high when he visited his six-week-old son.

         The next witness was the mother. Before the father went to jail, the mother obtained a domestic violence order against him. In addition, when she did arrange visitation with the children, he failed to see the children. Her daughter is very confused because she thinks her father has chosen not to love her. The little boy has not seen his father since he was an infant. The mother averred that the father has walked away from the children numerous times. Nonetheless, the mother is agreeable to the children having visitation with him if they want to see their father.

         The family court entered an order on October 21, 2016. In the order, it noted that the father did not complete any required treatment with social services during the pendency of the juvenile case, plus these services are not available in the jail. The family court looked at the visitation history of the father. It observed that the father failed to appear at scheduled visitations when he could have. Lastly, the ...

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