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Below v. Macklin
Supreme Court of Delaware
January 29, 2018
KAREN LEPAGE,  Respondent Below, Appellant,
REGINA MACKLIN, Petitioner Below, Appellee.
Submitted: November 17, 2017
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File No.
CN15-06044 Petition No. 15-33995
VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.
29th day of January 2018, upon consideration of
the opening brief and the record below, it appears to the
(1) The appellant, Karen Lepage ("the Mother"),
filed this appeal from the Family Court's March 21, 2017
letter decision and order granting the appellee, Regina
Macklin, visitation with one of Lepage's children. We
find no error or abuse of discretion in the Family
Court's decision. Accordingly, we affirm the Family
(2) On October 21, 2015, Macklin filed a petition for
third-party visitation with three of the Mother's
children. In her petition, Macklin alleged that she helped
the Mother care for the children after they first met, but
the Mother would not let her see the children after they
broke up. Macklin subsequently filed an amended petition for
third-party visitation with just one of the children
("the Child") because she was able to complete
service on the Child's father.
(3) The Family Court held a call of the civil calendar on
December 19, 2016. Macklin was the only party to attend the
hearing. A visitation hearing was scheduled for February 1,
(4) At the February 1, 2017 hearing, the Family Court heard
testimony from Macklin, a friend and former roommate of
Macklin, Macklin's nephew, and the Child's maternal
grandmother. Neither of the Child's parents appeared at
the hearing. The Mother had sent a letter objecting to
visitation to the Family Court judge.
(5) At the hearing, Macklin testified that she helped the
Mother raise the children, which included financial support,
but the Mother did not want Macklin to see the children after
they broke up. Macklin was still able to see the children
occasionally when they visited their maternal grandmother,
but the Mother objected to that contact as well.
Macklin's former roommate testified that the Mother would
leave the Child and his siblings with Macklin when she needed
a break and the Child was frequently in Macklin's home.
The maternal grandmother testified by telephone in favor of
Macklin's petition. She testified that Macklin did more
for the Child than the Mother. She also testified that she
believed the Mother wanted to keep the children away from
Macklin because she was in a new relationship.
(6) In a letter decision and order, the Family Court granted
Macklin's petition for visitation with the Child. Macklin
was granted one overnight visit a month and two weekend
visits in the summer. This appeal followed.
(7) This Court's review of a Family Court decision
includes a review of both the law and the
facts. Conclusions of law are reviewed de
novo. Factual findings will not be disturbed on
appeal unless they are clearly erroneous. We will not
substitute our opinion for the inferences and deductions of
the trial judge if those inferences are supported by the
record. In reviewing Macklin's petition for
third-party visitation, the Family Court had to consider
whether: (i) Macklin showed a substantial and positive prior
relationship with the Child; (ii) third-party visitation was
in the Child's best interests; (iii) Macklin demonstrated
by clear and convincing evidence that the Mother's
objections to visitation were unreasonable; and (iv) Macklin
demonstrated, by a preponderance of the evidence, that
visitation would not substantially interfere with the
(8) On appeal, the Mother argues that there should be no
visitation because the Child is scared of Macklin and does
not want to visit her, Macklin has threatened the
Mother's family, and the Mother and Macklin had a bad
break-up. The Mother offers no explanation for her failure to
appear at the February 1, 2017 visitation hearing. Because
the Mother did not raise these claims at the visitation
hearing, we will not consider them for the first time on
(9) After a careful review of the parties' briefs and the
record, we find no error or abuse of discretion in the Family
Court's ruling. The Family Court correctly applied the
law in determining that Macklin satisfied the standard for
third-party visitation under 13 Del. C. § 2412.
Under the circumstances, we find no error or abuse of
discretion in the Family Court's ruling. Accordingly, we
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