Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Stuart v. Stuart

Supreme Court of Delaware

March 22, 2017

GARY I. STUART, JR.[1] Petitioner Below, Appellant,
v.
OLIVA STUART, Respondent Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: January 27, 2017

         Court Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File No. CK15-02155 Petition No. 16-08585

          Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.

          ORDER

          Karen L. Valihura, Justice

         This 22nd day of March 2017, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) The appellant, Gary I. Stuart, Jr. ("the Husband"), filed this appeal from the Family Court's August 15, 2016 order accepting the Commissioner's April 12, 2016 order denying the Husband's petition for an order of protection from abuse ("PFA"). We find no error or abuse of discretion in the Family Court's decision. Accordingly, we affirm the Family Court's judgment.

         (2) On March 7, 2016, in the midst of the parties' divorce proceedings, the appellee, Oliva Stuart ("the Wife"), filed a petition for a PFA order along with a motion for an emergency ex parte order. The Wife sought a PFA order on behalf of herself and the parties' three minor children. A Family Court Commissioner granted the Wife's motion for an emergency ex parte order. The emergency ex parte order prohibited the Husband from contacting the Wife, granted the Wife exclusive use of the parties' residence, and granted the Wife temporary custody of the parties' children.

         (3) On March 22, 2016, the Husband filed a petition for a PFA order. The Husband sought a PFA on behalf of himself and the parties' children. On April 12, 2016, after several continuances, a Family Court Commissioner held a hearing on the parties' PFA petitions. After hearing testimony from the Husband and the Wife, the Commissioner denied the Husband's PFA petition and granted the Wife's PFA petition.

         (4) On May 5, 2016, the Husband filed a request for review of the Commissioner's denial of his petition for a PFA order.[2] In an order dated August 15, 2016, the Family Court accepted the Commissioner's denial of the Husband's petition for a PFA order. This appeal followed.

         (5) When a party files a timely request for review of a Commissioner's order, a Family Court judge must conduct an independent, de novo review of the record in order to determine whether the portions of the Commissioner's order to which an objection has been raised should be accepted, rejected, or modified in whole or in part.[3] This Court's standard of review in an appeal from the Family Court judge's order extends to a review of the facts and the law as well as to the inferences and deductions made by the judge.[4] Issues of law are reviewed de novo.[5] If the issues on appeal implicate rulings of fact, we conduct a limited review of the factual findings to assure that they are sufficiently supported by the record and are not clearly wrong.[6] To obtain a PFA order, a petitioner must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent has committed an act of domestic violence.[7]

         (6) On appeal, the Husband first argues he was not allowed to gather new evidence from his house that would have supported his PFA petition. The Husband attached multiple emails to his PFA petition in which he described times the Wife or her family abused him, but noted there was additional documentation of abuse at his house that he wanted his counsel to obtain. The Husband submitted additional emails at the PFA hearing and again noted that there was additional documentation of the Wife's abuse at their house. According to the Husband, the documents at the house were similar to what he had already submitted-his descriptions of abuse by the Wife or her family. In his appeal of the Commissioner's order, the Husband stated he had new evidence of abuse he was unable to retrieve from his house before the PFA hearing.

         (7) Applying Family Court Rule 53.1(e), the Family Court concluded that the additional documents did not constitute newly discovered evidence and that the circumstances did not justify reopening the record in the interest of justice. As the Family Court noted, the Husband failed to specify the information contained in the additional documents. There was no indication that the additional documents were not cumulative or duplicative of the documents already offered by the Husband. There was also no sign that the additional documents would have probably changed the outcome of the PFA hearing. The Family Court did not err, therefore, in concluding that the Husband's objection regarding the additional documents lacked merit.

         (8) The Husband next argues that he was prevented from cross-examining the Wife about alleged lies in her PFA petition. The record reflects that the Husband was represented by counsel on the Wife's PFA petition against him, but represented himself on his PFA petition against the Wife. The Husband's counsel cross-examined the Wife about her PFA petition.

         (9) The Husband cross-examined the Wife about matters relating to his petition and the Wife's petition. After the Commissioner sustained the Wife's objection to the Husband's cross-examination about an incident raised in the Wife's petition that had been the subject of cross-examination by the Husband's counsel, the Husband stated he had no further questions. The record reflects that the Husband and his counsel had ample opportunity to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.