While it is not clear from the Court of Appeals' Opinion why the children were not in the custody of their mother, what is clear is that several children were living with their aunt who was, at the time of the custody trial, the guardian for the children. It is not clear where their mother was, but she was obviously not available to care for the children.
Their father sought custody. Thus, this case presents a third party with an established custodial environment with the children seeking custody and the biological father as to whom, under Hunter v Hunter, the parental preference applies. The third party, thus, had the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence to prove that it was in the best interests of the children to remain with her rather than to live with their father.
Download Gansen_v_Phillips, Docket No. 304102, May 29, 2012 (Unpublished)