Both Parents’ Rights Must Be Terminated Prior to Adoption; Doctrine of Partial Waiver of Custodial Rights Still Good Law Post-Obergefell – Published Opinion from Supreme Court of Ky.

Panda Puzzle

J.S.B. v. S.R.V.

Livingston Circuit Court

Questions Presented: Child Custody. Issues involve attempted adoptions of two children to terminate their biological father’s rights (without terminating their mother’s parental rights) as well as the applicability and viability of the parental “waiver” decision of Mullins v. Picklesimer, 317 S.W.3d 569 (Ky. 2010).

The issues decided by the Supreme Court of Kentucky in this opinion were: (1) whether a non-stepparent adoption that does not terminate the parental rights of both biological parents is violative of Kentucky’s adoption statutes, and (2) whether the doctrine of “partial waiver” of a biological parent’s superior custodial rights as established in Mullins v. Picklesimer is still viable in light of the federal legalization of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

In this matter, Family Court terminated unknown fathers’ parental rights, did not terminate Mother’s parental rights, and permitted a non-stepparent to adopt Children. The Supreme Court held that because the adoptions orders did not terminate parental rights of both of the biological parents of Children, they are invalid. KRS 199.520(2) provides that “[u]pon granting an adoption, all legal relationship between the adopted child and the biological parents shall be terminated except the relationship of a biological parent who is the spouse of an adoptive parent.” It is clear that both biological parents’ rights must be terminated, except in the case of a stepparent.

The Supreme Court then held that Mullins v. Picklesimer is still good law post-Obergefell v. Hodges. The Court made it clear that holding in Picklesimer permitting the doctrine of partial waiver of custodial rights was in no way predicated upon the fact that the case involved a same-sex couple. It disagreed with the Court of Appeals that the legalization of same-sex marriage in any way affected the holding in Picklesimer.

Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon

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