Sasseen v. Sasseen, 092421 KYCA, 2020-CA-0346-MR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kentucky
JudgeBEFORE: DIXON, KRAMER, AND McNEILL, JUDGES. KRAMER, JUDGE, CONCURS. DIXON, JUDGE, CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY.
Writing for the CourtMcNEILL, JUDGE
PartiesMICHAEL ALLEN SASSEEN APPELLANT v. VIVIAN MARIE SASSEEN (NOW VINIARD) APPELLEE
Docket Number2020-CA-0346-MR

MICHAEL ALLEN SASSEEN APPELLANT

v.

VIVIAN MARIE SASSEEN (NOW VINIARD) APPELLEE

No. 2020-CA-0346-MR

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

September 24, 2021

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

APPEAL FROM MCCRACKEN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE DEANNA WISE HENSCHEL, JUDGE ACTION NO. 14-CI-00688

BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Tiffany Gabehart Poindexter Paducah, Kentucky

NO BRIEF FILED FOR APPELLEE.

BEFORE: DIXON, KRAMER, [1] AND McNEILL, JUDGES.

OPINION

McNEILL, JUDGE

Michael Allen Sasseen ("Father") appeals from an order of the McCracken Family Court denying his request for sanctions and attorney's fees and removing restrictions on contact between appellee, Vivian Marie Sasseen (now Viniard) ("Mother") and the parties' minor child, A.S., without finding such contact was in the best interest of the child. For the reasons below, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for specific findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding modification of visitation.

The parties were divorced on November 4, 2014. On May 8, 2015, the family court entered an "Agreed Supplemental Findings of Fact and Decree of Dissolution" which incorporated a marital settlement agreement between the parties. Pursuant to the agreement, Father and Mother were granted joint custody of their three children, N.S., J.S., and A.S., 2 with Father being designated the primary residential parent. At the time, Mother had become estranged from her children and agreed to not exercise her visitation.

Relevant to the appeal, on August 24, 2017, Mother filed a "Motion to Increase Visitation" to attempt to reconnect with her children. Following a hearing, the family court entered an order granting mother's request to begin reunification counseling, and appointed Dr. Holly J. Mattingly, a licensed clinical psychologist, to perform the counseling.

Shortly into the sessions, Father and the children became concerned that Dr. Mattingly was siding with Mother in the reunification process and became increasingly distrustful of her motives. Then, in January 2019, J.S. discovered a timeline of the family's custody and visitation issues Mother had posted on the internet, including information that suggested Mother had consulted with Dr. Mattingly prior to the reunification counseling. Concerned Dr. Mattingly and Mother were colluding in the reunification process, Father filed a motion to terminate reunification and to disqualify Dr. Mattingly.

On May 16, 2019, the family court held a lengthy hearing on the motion where Father, Mother, Dr. Mattingly, and Katherine Englert, the children's counselor, testified. Prior to the hearing, Father subpoenaed a copy of Dr. Mattingly's file as well as all text and email communications between Mother and Dr. Mattingly. Based upon these communications, Father alleged Dr. Mattingly and Mother had committed a fraud upon the court by colluding to remove Father from the children's lives. Following the hearing, the family court postponed ruling on the motion until it could review the text and email communications.

On August 28, 2019, the court met with the children to get their feedback on the reunification process. Prior to the meeting, Mother's attorney represented to the court that Dr. Mattingly no longer felt she was the best person to provide therapy to the children considering the state of her and the children's relationship. Thereafter, the court entered an order holding that the issue of whether to disqualify Dr. Mattingly as the reunification therapist was now moot.

Subsequently, Father moved the court to specifically rule on all issues contained in his "Motion to Terminate Reunification and Disqualify Therapist," including whether to terminate the reunification process; whether to disqualify Dr. Mattingly as a reunification therapist based upon collusion and fraud; and whether to award attorney's fees based upon the same. On February 6, 2020, the family court entered an order denying Father's request for attorney's fees, declining to "find that there was a fraud perpetrated on the [c]ourt." The court also denied the motion to disqualify Dr. Mattingly and stated that it "continue[d] to believe that reunification therapy is in the remaining minor child's best interest." Finally, the court removed all restrictions on contact between Mother and A.S., noting it "remained optimistic that the child and mother may begin to communicate slowly and perhaps their relationship will develop on its own." It is from this order that Father now appeals. Further facts will be set forth as necessary below.

First, we address the threshold issue of whether the above-styled appeal was taken from a final and appealable order. This Court lacks jurisdiction to hear appeals from interlocutory...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT