Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Kentucky

Date: July 2021

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 625.090

The court may involuntarily terminate all parental rights if the following is shown by clear and convincing evidence:

  • The child has been found to be an abused or neglected child.
  • The child has been diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome at the time of birth.
  • The parent has been convicted of physical or sexual abuse or neglect of any child, and physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or emotional injury to the child is likely to occur if the parental rights are not terminated.
  • The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has filed a petition to terminate the parents' rights.
  • Termination would be in the best interests of the child.

No termination of parental rights shall be ordered unless the court also finds by clear and convincing evidence the existence of one or more of the following grounds:

  • The parent has abandoned the child for no less than 90 days.
  • The parent has continuously or repeatedly inflicted or allowed to be inflicted upon the child, by other than accidental means, physical injury or emotional harm.
  • The parent has been convicted of a felony that involved the infliction of serious physical injury to any child.
  • The parent, for not less than 6 months, has continuously or repeatedly failed or refused to provide or has been substantially incapable of providing essential parental care and protection for the child, and there is no reasonable expectation of improvement in parental care and protection.
  • The parent has caused or allowed the child to be sexually abused or exploited.
  • The parent, for reasons other than poverty alone, has continuously or repeatedly failed to provide or is incapable of providing essential food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or education for the child's well-being, and there is no reasonable expectation of significant improvement in the parent's conduct in the immediately foreseeable future.
  • The parent's parental rights to another child have been involuntarily terminated, and the following apply:
    • The child named in the present termination action was born subsequent to or during the pendency of the previous termination.
    • The conditions or factors that were the basis for the previous termination finding have not been corrected.
  • The parent has been convicted of causing or contributing to the death of another child as a result of physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
  • The child has been in foster care for 15 cumulative months out of 48 months preceding the filing of the petition to terminate parental rights.

In determining the best interests of the child and the existence of a ground for termination, the court shall consider the following factors:

  • Mental illness or intellectual disability of the parent that renders the parent consistently unable to care for the immediate and ongoing physical or psychological needs of the child for extended periods of time
  • Acts of abuse or neglect toward any child in the family
  • If the child has been placed with the cabinet, whether the cabinet has, prior to the filing of the petition, made reasonable efforts to reunite the child with the parents unless one or more circumstances for not requiring reasonable efforts have been substantiated in a written finding by the court
  • The efforts and adjustments the parent has made in his or her circumstances, conduct, or conditions to make it in the child's best interests to return home within a reasonable period of time
  • The physical, emotional, and mental health of the child and the prospects for the improvement of the child's welfare if termination is ordered
  • The payment or the failure to pay a reasonable portion of substitute physical care and maintenance if financially able to do so

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 625.090

A petition for involuntary termination of parental rights may be filed when a child has been diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome at the time of birth unless either of the following applies:

  • The birth mother was prescribed and was properly using medication for a legitimate medical condition as directed by a health-care practitioner that may have led to the neonatal abstinence syndrome.
  • The birth mother is currently, or within 90 days after the birth, enrolled in and is maintaining substantial compliance with both a substance abuse treatment or recovery program and a regimen of prenatal care or postnatal care as recommended by her health-care practitioner throughout the remaining term of her pregnancy or the appropriate time after her pregnancy.

If the parent proves by a preponderance of evidence that the child will not continue to be an abused or neglected child if returned to the parent, the court, in its discretion, may determine not to terminate parental rights.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.