P.C.C. v. C.M.C., Ky COA, Step-parent Adoption, Termination Of Parental Rights,Due Process

P.C.C. v. C.M.C., __ S.W.3d __ (Ky. App. 2009)

           P.C.C. appealed the judgment of adoption which effectively terminated his parental rights and allowed the child’s stepfather to adopt him.  P.C.C. and K.R.C. were married and had a son.  The parties divorced and agreed that K would have sole custody and P would have a set visitation schedule with the child.  K then married C.M.C., who filed a Petition for Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights.  P objected, arguing that C lacked standing to initiate termination proceedings, and he filed a motion to enforce his visitation rights in the divorce matter.  The trial court refused to hear P’s visitation motion unless the adoption petition was ultimately denied.  Pursuant to KRS 199.502, the court granted the adoption petition and terminated P’s parental rights on the theory that P had abandoned the child for more than 90 days by failing to exercise his visitation rights.

            COA reversed and remanded.  P was not afforded fundamental due process throughout the litigation.  C also failed to meet his burden of proof that P abandoned the child.  The evidence indicated that throughout the child’s life his father’s attempts to visit with him had been “systematically thwarted” by the child’s mother.

Digested by Sarah Jost Nielsen, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates