Published: Opinion Affirming
Father appeals order of Kenton Circuit Court requiring him to pay, as part of his child support, amounts for respite care and work-related childcare, as well as part of Mother’s attorney fees and court costs.
The parties were married in 1994 and divorced in 2007. They have two children, one of whom requires extra care because of autism. At the time of the divorce, Father lived in Cincinnati and Mother lived in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky. In January, 2011, Father took a job in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates earning approximately $32,000 a month. Mother also went to work earning $46,000 a year.
Mother filed a motion in March, 2011 because Father was unable to exercise parenting time after his move to Abu Dhabi. She asked that Father be required to pay for a sitter to give her time off from caring for the children. She also requested that he share work-related childcare costs and her attorney fees. Even after Father’s subsequent move to Texas, he was unable to exercise parenting time on a regular basis.
The trial court ordered Father to pay 100% of any childcare costs incurred when he did not exercise his parenting time, which was designated as respite care. Father was also ordered to pay work-related childcare expenses and to pay $3500.00 of Mother’s attorney fees. After Father’s motion to alter, amend, or vacate was denied, this appeal followed.
Father first argued that respite care is not authorized under Kentucky law. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the award of respite care was similar to work-related childcare, and was not an increase in Father’s general child support obligation. This expense was specifically and adequately justified by the trial court.
Father further argued that the trial court erred when it awarded Mother work-related childcare expenses. He claimed that even if she incurred the expenses, they were only temporary. Again, the Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that Mother had only to prove that there had been a change of circumstances requiring the payment of work-related childcare expenses. Father had to pay his share of those expenses, whether or not they were temporary.
The Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in the award of $3500 in attorney fees. Father earned $450,000 in Abu Dhabi and about $250,000 after his move to Texas. Mother only earned $46,000 per year. Because of the disparity in the parties’ incomes, the award of attorney fees was not an abuse of discretion.