Submitted: February 23, 2018
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File Nos.
CK15-02648 Pet. Nos. 15-026543 and 15-20226
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and TRAYNOR, Justices.
Strine, Jr. Chief Justice
consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on
appeal, it appears to the Court that:
appellant, Sara Berkley ("Paternal Grandmother"),
filed this appeal from an order of the Family Court dated
August 3, 2017. Among other things, the Family Court's
order granted two petitions for guardianship filed by the
appellee, Kristy Calhoun ("Maternal Grandmother").
After careful consideration, we find no error or abuse in the
Family Court's judgment. Accordingly, we affirm.
record reflects that the appellees, Brandon Berkley
("Father") and Tamara Calhoun ("Mother"),
are the parents of two children, M.C. (born July 31, 2010)
and C.B. (born April 12, 2013). Father and Mother are both
addicts and have spent time incarcerated. In April 2015,
Paternal Grandmother filed an emergency, ex parte
petition for guardianship of the children, which was granted.
The children have lived with Paternal Grandmother, her
husband, and six of their nine children since the issuance of
that emergency order.
Maternal Grandmother filed a petition for guardianship of
M.C. in August 2015 and a petition for guardianship of C.B.
in June 2016. After various continuances were requested and
granted, the Family Court held a hearing on the petitions on
June 8, 2017. The Family Court heard testimony from an
employee at People's Place (a supervised visitation
site), Maternal Grandmother's therapist, Maternal
Grandmother, Maternal Great-Grandmother, Paternal
Grandmother, Mother, and Father.
undisputed testimony established that Mother and Father were
both incarcerated at the time of the hearing and, therefore,
the children were dependent in their care. Mother and Father
both consented to Maternal Grandmother's guardianship of
the children. At the time of the hearing, Paternal
Grandmother had not allowed Maternal Grandmother contact with
the children for more than a year and a half.
addition to the undisputed testimony, the Family Court also
found that both grandmothers have good relationships with the
children and with their extended families. Before April 2015,
Mother (and sometimes Father) and the children lived with
Maternal Grandmother. Since April 2015, the children have
adjusted well to living with Paternal Grandmother, and
C.B.'s health issues have improved. Paternal Grandmother,
however, has not allowed the children to visit with Maternal
Grandmother for more than a year and a half and has refused
to share information concerning the children's
well-being, schooling, and medical care. Paternal Grandmother
also filed a motion to reduce Maternal
Great-Grandmother's court-ordered weekly telephone
contact with the children and filed a Protection for Abuse
petition against her, which was dismissed.
reviewing Maternal Grandmother's petitions for
guardianship, the Family Court applied the legal standard set
forth in 13 Del. C. § 2330(c), which applies
when a guardianship petition is filed against a current
guardian and each parent consents to the proposed
guardianship. Applying that standard, the court is
required to consider the best interests of the children. The
best interest factors are set out in 13 Del. C.
considering the evidence, the Family Court found that some of
the best interest factors weighed in favor of Paternal
Grandmother, some weighed in favor of Maternal Grandmother,
and some were neutral. The Family Court found that Paternal
Grandmother had done a good job caring for the children and
that the children were well-adjusted to their current home,
school, and community. The Family Court also found, however,
that Paternal Grandmother had shown an unwillingness to
cooperate with Mother's side of the family and had
damaged the children's relationships with Mother and
Mother's family. The Family Court found evidence that the
children would thrive in Maternal Grandmother's care and
considered the wishes of both Mother and Father, who
consented to Maternal Grandmother's guardianship. After
balancing the factors, the Family Court concluded that it was
in the children's best interests to grant Maternal
Grandmother's petitions for guardianship.
appellate review of a Family Court guardianship decision
includes a review of both the law and the
facts. If the Family Court correctly applied the
law, we review for an abuse of discretion. We will not
disturb the Family Court's factual findings if those
findings are supported by the record. If the determination of
facts turns on the credibility of the witnesses who testified
under oath in court, we will not substitute our opinion for
that of the trial judge.
After careful consideration of the parties' respective
positions on appeal and after a thorough review of the
record, the Court has determined that this appeal should be
affirmed on the basis of the Family Court's well-reasoned
decision dated August 3, 2017. It is clear that the trial
judge considered the evidence under the appropriate legal
standards and applied a logical deductive process in
concluding that granting Maternal Grandmother's
guardianship petitions was in the best interests of the
children. There is no rational support in the record for
Paternal Grandmother's contention that the Family Court
did not ...