S.J.L.S. v. T.L. S.
FAMILY LAW: Step-parent-like adoption
Published: Affirming in part, reversing in part, and remading
Panel: Clayton Presiding; Lambert concurs; Keller concurs in result only
Date Rendered: 9/12/2008
As part of the life plan of two women, S gave birth to a child
named “Z” by artificial insemination from a donor selected by T. Six weeks
after the birth of the child in 2001 T filed a petition for permanent joint
custody. S was unrepresented, signed a waiver and acknowledgement and an agreed
order of permanent custody was entered.
In 2003 S and T split up and 6 months later T filed an
adoption petition. On a family court case information sheet T represented she
was a stepparent. Although unnecessary in a stepparent’s adoption, a Guardian
ad Litem was requested and appointed and S and T entered into an adoption
agreement that recited that it in no way terminated the parental rights of S.
This time S was represented by counsel. The GAL and both lawyers convinced the
court in this non-adversarial proceeding the "stepparent-like"
adoption was permissible, based on law from other jurisdictions. Although no
pre-petition involvement of the Cabinet for Families and Children was obtained,
the court clerk notified the cabinet upon filing the petition. The Cabinet
objected by letter and the court and counsel were aware of the objection. The
letters were removed by someone from the court record although a copy of one had
been scanned by a court clerk and was part of the record in the court of
appeals. Neither party nor the Cabinet took an appeal from the judgment of
In July 2005 S filed a CR 60.02 motion to vacate the custody
and adoption judgment. The court acknowledged it lacked subject matter
jurisdiction when both judgments were entered but believed that KRS 199.540(2)
is an absolute bar to an attack on a judgment of adoption more than one year
after its entry. Because the adoption could not be set aside, custodial
arrangements were necessary and thus the trial court denied the CR 60.02 motion.
The end result was that the adoption was not set aside and S’s
parental rights were not terminated. The custody issue was remanded.
By Diana Skaggs
For a more detailed analysis and digest read her post
entitled: S.J.L.S. v.
T.L.S., Ky COA Stepparent-like Adoption