Kentucky Court of Appeals finds Estill Circuit Court erred in granting aunt and uncle’s adoption petition without natural mother’s consent – Published Opinion from Kentucky Court of Appeals

Together in the living room at home

T.G.-F. v. J.Y.; A.Y.; G.E.L.G., a Minor Child; and W.F., No. 2021-CA-1480-ME

Estill Circuit Court

Mother gave birth to child and little over a year later, aunt and uncle filed their adoption petition for the minor child without mother’s consent pursuant to KRS 199.502.  At the time of the filing, the child’s natural father was deceased.  The adoption was granted, and mother appealed on four grounds—one procedural challenge and three evidentiary challenges.  The Court of Appeals found the procedural challenge persuasive and ultimately vacated the adoption judgment and remanded to Estill Circuit Court.

Mother claimed the adoption statutes were not properly followed in seeking the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ (“Cabinet”) participation pursuant to KRS 199.510(1) or (2); therefore, mother argued the adoption was defective.  The Cabinet is required to do one of two things in every adoption case: (1) complete an investigation or make a report to the court prior to the adoption going through, or (2) notify the court within ten days of receipt of the adoption paperwork that it would not investigate the case.  Here, the Cabinet did not complete either of these actions, and presumably, this would be due to the Cabinet not receiving the adoption paperwork from the court’s clerk. 

The Court noted that silence from the Cabinet does not equate to the Cabinet satisfying its requirement that it does not plan to investigate.  Further, the Court emphasizes that if the Cabinet fails to participate in the process, the circuit court should order the Cabinet’s participation to ensure the statutory requirements are met.  As a result of the circuit court proceeding to judgment in this case absent any Cabinet participation, the Court found the circuit court committed a reversible error.  Therefore, the Court vacated the adoption judgment and remanded to the circuit court.  In finding mother’s procedural challenge persuasive, the Court determined her evidentiary challenges were moot.

Caitlin P. Kidd, Esq.

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