The state of Kentucky believes every child has the right to a loving home that provides a positive environment for the development of physical and mental health. Parents or legal guardians can choose to give up the rights to their children under state law.
If you want to terminate your parental rights, you will have up to a month to consider the consequences of termination, because the legal process is complex to prevent rash decisions on the part of parents.
If you receive a successful termination order from a Kentucky circuit court, you lose any rights of custody over your child. The effects of an order are permanent and cannot be reversed under any circumstances, according to Section 625.046 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes. If you are pregnant, you cannot give up the rights to your child sooner than three days after the child's birth.
You or the other biological parent of your child must file a petition with your county circuit court that contains the identifying information of you and your child, your relationship to the child, and your reasons for voluntary termination. A Kentucky Family Services Worker can help you file petition DSS-158, because you must ensure that Family Services has the capacity to take in your child, or that you have another party to whom you can grant custody. Family Services can also provide you with counsel on whether or not you should give up your parental rights.
Your local Kentucky circuit court will set a hearing date three days after receiving a petition and a hearing appearance not more than 30 days after receiving a petition, per 625.042(1) of the Kentucky Revised Statutes. If you have a history of mental instability or physical retardation, you will automatically receive legal counsel but do not otherwise have to retain the services of an attorney. At the hearing, the judge will make his decision on custody by considering your personal history and situation and listening to testimony from all parties who have an interest in your child, including immediate family members and your child’s other biological or adopted parent.
The judge does not have to grant a termination of parental rights if he determines that the child’s best interests involve remaining with you. If he does agree to terminate custody, he will grant custody of your child to whomever he deems fit, including the child’s other biological parent, an adoptive couple, or Kentucky Family Services. Before you sign a waiver that will give up all of your parental rights, the judge will make sure that you understand the ramifications of your decision.