Notice of Witnesses Required in Termanation of Parental Rights Proceeding: Ky Supreme Court Published Opinion

CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES V. S.H,; V.N.M.J.R.N., A CHILD, ET AL.

The family court held a termination of parental rights hearing allowing a social worker to testify on behalf of CFHS with no prior notice to Mother. Mother objected arguing FCRPP 7(1) applied to a termination of parental rights hearing and she should have received 14 days-notice of the witnesses and their testimony. The family court ruled the termination hearing was not a permanent custody hearing and allowed the social worker to testify. Mother appealed the order terminating her parental rights arguing FCRPP 7(1) applied. The Court of Appeals agreed finding the error was not harmless and remanded, reversed and vacated the termination order.

The Ky Supreme Court granted discretionary review. CFHS argued FRCPP 7(1) did not apply because custody was not at issue. The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals holding that custody is undoubtedly at issue and 7(1) applies to termination proceedings. Although the Supreme Court holds that the language of FRCPP 7(1) gives the trial judge discretion to alter the notice requirement, it agrees with the Court of Appeals that in this case the family court erred by allowing the social worker to testify.

Digested by Elizabeth M. Howell