Kentucky Court of Appeals affirms Boyd Circuit Court’s order terminating father’s parental rights pursuant to KRS 625.090

Commonwealth of Kentucky, Cabinet for Health and Family Services v. H.O.; D.J.O., III; and H.J.O., A Child, Case No. 2021-CA-1333-ME

Natural father’s parental rights of a minor child were terminated by the Boyd Circuit Court’s order pursuant to natural mother’s petition.  Mother filed her petition pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 625.050, requesting the court involuntarily terminate father’s parental rights according to KRS 625.090.  Father had not exercised parenting time of the minor child since 2019; however, he paid child support monthly to mother.  Mother filed an amended petition thereafter to include the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) as a party in the action.

CHFS responded with an answer and a motion to dismiss.  In its answer, CHFS noted there had not been an investigation of father, there was not a pending investigation of father, that it did not file the petition for involuntary termination of parental rights, and there was not a pending adoption proceeding for the minor child.  To clarify in its motion to dismiss, CHFS argued that KRS 625.090 (which is the statute regarding grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights) only permitted termination of rights if CHFS files the petition for same.  In other words, CHFS argued mother’s petition did not satisfy the statutory requirements for involuntary termination of parental rights.

Following a hearing in the case, the Boyd Circuit Court terminated father’s parental rights and determined the statutory requirements of KRS 625.090 were met.  This appeal followed.

The Court of Appeals reflected on the statutory conflict between KRS 625.090 and KRS 625.050, which it visited in a prior 2021 case.  Prior to the 2022 legislative session, KRS 625.090 only specified involuntary termination of parental rights taking place following CHFS filing a petition for same.  Conversely, KRS 625.050 allowed for proceedings for involuntary termination of parental rights to be initiated by “petition by the cabinet, any child-placing agency licensed by the cabinet, any county or Commonwealth’s attorney or parent.” See KRS 625.050(3) (emphasis added).  The General Assembly revised KRS 625.090 in its 2022 regular session to include parallel language to KRS 625.050, allowing a parent to initiate these proceedings and file a petition for involuntary termination.

The Court of Appeals, therefore, affirmed the Boyd Circuit Court’s order terminating father’s parental rights based on the amended KRS 625.090, which allowed mother to petition for involuntary termination of parental rights.

Caitlin P. Kidd, Esq.

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