S.B.B.v. J.W.B. 2009-CA-001033-ME
Issue: Termination of Parental Rights
Published: Reversing and Remanding
Stepfather appealed from TC order denying his petition to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of Biological Father to Son, and to adopt the child.
TC’s sole reason for denying the petition was Father’s sporadic payment of child support by wage deduction over approximately eight years of the child’s life. TC had stated it would have granted the relief except for the fact that Father had paid $23,000.00 in child support over the years, albeit on a sporadic basis by wage deduction and notwithstanding that he was over $8,000.00 in arrears. TC stated that, as a matter of law, that this fact, and this fact alone, precluded a finding of abandonment or failure to provide care or essentials under KRS 199.502 (1), the only possible grounds for termination in this case.
Although payment of support is a significant factor in determining whether a parent has abandoned a child, it is but one factor to be considered. Abandonment is not actually defined in KY jurisprudence in the context of termination proceedings. Rather, abandonment is demonstrated by facts or circumstances that evince a settled purpose to forego all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the child. The evidence presented to TC clearly reveals Father exhibited such conduct. Payment of support, though significant, is but one factor to consider among the totality of circumstances when determining parental abandonment. Remanded to TC for determination as to whether Father’s sporadic payment of support outweighs other important considerations in determining the propriety of terminating his parental rights.