FROM JEFFERSON FAMILY COURT HONORABLE DEANA C. MCDONALD,
JUDGE ACTION NO. 14-CI-501447
FOR APPELLANT: Vickie Masden Arrowood Louisville, Kentucky.
FOR APPELLEE: Scott E. Karem Louisville, Kentucky.
BEFORE: CLAYTON, DIXON AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.
Deleo appeals from the findings of fact, conclusions of law
and judgment of the Jefferson Family Court in this
dissolution of marriage action. She argues as follows: (1)
the family court abused its discretion when it denied her
motion to continue the trial; (2) the denial of her motion
for a continuance of the trial denied her constitutionally
protected right of due process; (3) the family court abused
its discretion by delegating judicial authority to the
child's therapist; (4) the family court failed to make
findings required by Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR)
52.01 and Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 403.320 in its
order suspending Kimberly's visitation with her child;
and (5) the family court failed to make specific findings
regarding the parties inability to co-parent. We conclude the
family court erred in denying Kimberly's motion to
continue the trial and reverse and remand.
and Christopher Deleo were married in 1993. During the
marriage, the couple had three children, two of whom (L.D.,
born on March 11, 1999, and J.D., born on January 12, 2006),
were minors at the time of the dissolution trial.
early May 2014, Christopher filed a mental inquest warrant
against Kimberly after she poured gasoline on and set fire to
some of Christopher's clothing while the children were in
the residence. Kimberly was removed from the home and an
emergency protection order was entered restraining her from
returning to the marital home. Shortly following these
events, Kimberly entered treatment at Our Lady of Peace in
their adult partial hospitalization program for depression
and alcohol abuse.
9, 2014, Christopher filed a petition for dissolution of
marriage. Kimberly responded through retained counsel. She
also filed motions seeking a temporary parenting schedule,
temporary maintenance and attorney fees. The parties agreed
to a parenting schedule and, after the hearing on the
temporary maintenance and attorney fees motions, the trial
court awarded $2, 000 per month in maintenance to Kimberly
and Christopher was ordered to advance attorney fees to
Kimberly's counsel in the amount of $1, 500.
2014, Christopher filed a motion to restrain Kimberly from
violating a domestic violence order entered against her,
which precluded her from being within twenty-five feet of the
marital home. He alleged that on two separate occasions,
Kimberly violated that order and sent him threatening text
messages. He also filed a motion for the appointment of a
guardian ad litem (GAL) and a custodial evaluator.
was appointed. The family court also appointed custody
evaluator and licensed clinical psychologist, Deborah
Grishman Blair. On October 15, 2015, Dr. Blair issued a
thirty-nine page report that was unfavorable to Kimberly as
to her role as custodian of the children. The report contains
a complex analysis of the results of various psychological
tests performed on Kimberly, Christopher and the children as
well as her professional observations and conclusions.
Dr. Blair's report, Christopher filed a motion to suspend
or supervise Kimberly's parenting time. Although the
parenting schedule was adjusted, Kimberly's visitation
February 26, 2015, a two-day trial was scheduled to be held
on July 15 and July 17, 2015.
March 4, 2015, Kimberly's attorney filed a motion for
additional attorney fees to be advanced stating that his
outstanding bill was approximately $6, 000. The motion was
April 13, 2015, Kimberly's counsel filed a motion to
withdraw stating that he had been discharged by Kimberly.
During the court appearance when the motion was addressed,
the family court asked Kimberly if she had discharged her
attorney. When Kimberly did not respond, her attorney stated:
"I have been fired your Honor."
3, 2015, seven weeks before the scheduled trial date,
Kimberly filed a pro se motion for an advancement of
attorney fees so that she could retain an attorney for trial.
On that same date, an attorney entered an appearance on
Kimberly's behalf and filed a motion to continue the
trial date because the attorney had a termination of parental
rights trial scheduled on the same dates. Kimberly's
motions were denied. The reason given by the family court for
denying a continuance was that a new trial date could not be
set for five to six months after the scheduled date.
17, 2015, Kimberly renewed her motion to reschedule the
trial. In that motion, Kimberly argued that the matters at
issue, custody of her children and division of property, are
constitutionally protected interests. She pointed out the
difficulty she had obtaining an attorney because of her
financial situation and that Legal Aid had declined to
represent her. The motion was denied on June 22, 2015.
Kimberly's new attorney was permitted to withdraw.
trial commenced without Kimberly being represented by an
attorney. We recite portions of the trial to give a glimpse
of the complexity of the issues involved.
Blair testified in accordance with her report. She noted that
the two older children refused any contact with Kimberly
because of her erratic and disruptive behavior. The children
described specific instances of that behavior including
coming to the adult child's workplace and talking with
her boss about the dissolution proceeding and causing
disruption of L.D.'s soccer game when Kimberly approached
a coach and school administrator about the dissolution. She
also noted that the police were called multiple times because
of Kimberly's behavior and that Kimberly failed to comply
with prior court orders regarding parenting time. Dr. Blair
concluded that Kimberly had demonstrated a pattern of
maladaptive functioning and substance abuse. She further
[Kimberly's] rage and unpredictability suggest extreme
instability and her behavior of the last few months has been
erratic, poor judgment, and oft times, narcissistic. Her
grandiosity combined with lack of self-control does not speak
well for her ...