Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (Private) - Birth Parents

It is unclear whether there is a right to counsel in adoption cases.  KRS § 625.0405(1) of the Juvenile Code provides a right to counsel in proceedings for the voluntary termination of parental rights.  The Juvenile Code then separately covers involuntary termination proceedings, specifies that a parent (but no other private party) can pursue such an action, and provides a right to counsel for parents in those proceedings.  See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 625.080(3).  The language in § 625.080 refers to a right in “any involuntary action for termination of parental rights,” which is very broad.  See also Moore v. Asente, 110 S. W. 3d 336 (Ky. 2003) (“Like the final order in a TPR proceeding, a valid adoption judgment terminates the parental rights of the birth parent.”)  


On the other hand, it appears that contested adoptions are conducted under the Adoption Code.  The Adoption Code allows for adoptions without parental consent in certain circumstances (see Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 199.502).  Section 199.470 of the Adoption Code makes it clear that private parties can seek adoption.  And nowhere in the Adoption Code does it mention a right to counsel, , so the question is whether the broad provisions of § 625.080 would apply.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes