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Aubuchon v. Hale

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

December 2, 2014

GORDON D. AUBUCHON, Respondent,
v.
KIMBERLEY H. HALE, Appellant

Page 319

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County. Hon. Richard K. Zerr.

Francis E. Pennington, St. Louis, MO, for appellant.

Erin R. Griebel, Gabriel Harris, Chicago, IL, for respondent.

CLIFFORD H. AHRENS, Judge. Lawrence E. Mooney, P. J., concurs. Glenn A. Norton, J., concurs.

OPINION

CLIFFORD H. AHRENS, Judge

Page 320

Kimberly Hale (Mother) and Gordon Aubuchon (Father) appeal the trial court's judgment in post-dissolution proceedings involving child custody and support, relocation, and attorney fees. We affirm.

Background

The parties divorced in September 2009 and received joint legal and physical custody of their two daughters, H.A. and M.A. Father was ordered to pay child support of $920 per month. In November 2009, Mother sought a temporary restraining order against Father based on allegations that he had molested M.A. Mother voluntarily dismissed that petition weeks later but, in February 2010, Father was indicted on two counts of statutory sodomy and was prohibited contact with the children as a condition of his bond. Father would be acquitted after a jury trial in February 2011, and Children's Division would eventually reverse its probable cause determination from " substantiated" to " unsubstantiated."

In the interim, however, in May 2010, Mother filed a motion seeking sole custody of the children and approval to relocate to Texas. While the motion was pending, in September 2010 Father's child support obligation was increased to $1,680 per month. In July 2011, the trial court entered its judgment denying Mother's motions and, in light of Father's acquittal, ordered therapeutic measures to normalize relations between Father and the children. Mother appealed that judgment and, in December 2012, this court reversed and remanded, holding that the evidence demonstrated changed circumstances warranting consideration whether custody modification and relocation would serve the children's best interests. Aubuchon v. Hale, 384 S.W.3d 217 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012). We specifically found the record lacking any evidence that the parties could co-parent such that joint custody remained a viable option. Id. at 223.

On remand, in December 2013, the trial court heard additional evidence to update the record on the status of the parties and their daughters (then age 14). The court's resulting findings and orders are the subjects of this second appeal. In sum, the court found that the allegations of abuse against Father were not credible and that Mother deliberately -- and quite successfully -- estranged and alienated the children from Father. Ultimately, however, the

Page 321

court concluded that, after over four years without contact, and given the girls' disdain for Father due to Mother's influence, " there are no current conditions under which the Father can have a meaningful relationship with his children," and " forcing contact between the children and the Father would do more harm than good." Thus, the Court awarded sole custody to Mother and no visitation for Father. The parenting plan specifies that Father retains full access to information regarding the children ( e.g., through teachers, doctors, ...


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