Published: Reversing and Remanding
The Cabinet appealed a judgment of Clark Family Court denying the petition to terminate the parental rights of Appellee, I.W., Jr.
M.A.W. was born in 2002 to R. S. and her stepbrother, Appellee, I.W., Jr. I.W., Sr., Appellee’s father, and M.W., R.S.’s mother, married when I.W., Jr. was 13 years old and he lived in the same household with R.S. about 2 1/2 years. I.W., Jr. engaged in sexual relations with R.S. for approximately 10 years, beginning when she was sixteen. I.W., Sr. sexually abused R.S. as a child and their sexual relationship continued after she was an adult. I.W., Jr. advised his wife, C.W., of his relationship with R.S., and after learning R.S. was pregnant with M.A.W., C.W. asked I.W., Jr. to determine if he was the father. When R.S. denied I.W., Jr. was the father, no further inquiry was pursued.
M.A.W. lived in a number of homes with various relatives and in foster care. The child was abused and neglected and witnessed domestic violence. In 2006, M.A.W. and his older half-sister, M.S.W., were placed with P.W. and J.W., M.S.W.’s biological father and stepmother who had two other children. The next year, M.S.W. died as a result of injuries inflicted by P.W. and J.W., which occurred in the presence of all the children. The children were removed from the home and remain placed together in a foster home. I.W., Jr. and his wife, C.W., moved the court for custody or visitation.
Several alternatives were considered and rejected as possible custodial arrangements. Extensive testing and evaluations were conducted by a psychologist and the UK Comprehensive Assessment and Training Services. They reported the severe violence and emotional trauma the child had experienced and concluded that M.A.W. should not be separated from his siblings. The evidence was presented at a trial on the termination of parental rights on August 21, 2009. On October 21, 2009, the trial court denied the Cabinet’s petition to terminate I.W., Jr.’s parental rights because it had not sustained the burden of proof that termination of parental rights was in the child’s best interest, The child, however, was left in the Commonwealth’s custody. After the trial court denied the Cabinet’s motion to alter, amend or vacate, this appeal was filed.
The Court of Appeals found that there was substantial evidence in the record to support termination of parental rights and there was no evidence supporting a finding that termination was not in M.A.W.’s best interest. Therefore, the ruling was clearly erroneous and reversed, remanded to Clark Family Court for an order terminating I.W., Jr.’s parental rights.