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R.V.K.H. v. S.M.S.

Case No. 2023-CA-0136-ME

Graves Circuit Court

Decided by Acree, Dixon, And McNeill, Judges.

Opinion by Dixon, Judge

Date Rendered: October 27, 2023

Issue: Whether the UCCJEA applies in adoption proceedings.

Issue: Whether KRS 199.502(3) requires courts to conduct an inquiry of indigency when biological parents appear pro se in adoption proceedings.

Child was born in Hawaii, then moved to Idaho, and finally Kentucky. Child had no contact with Mother for over a year. Stepmother petitioned for adoption. Mother appeared pro se at the final adoption hearing where the Court granted Stepmother’s petition. Mother appealed.

Mother first argues that Kentucky did not have jurisdiction to hear the adoption petition because Hawaii retained jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. The Court of Appeals disagrees as the UCCJEA does not apply to adoption proceedings.

Mother then argues that the court erred by failing to inquire as to her indigency when she appeared pro se to the final adoption hearing. The Court of Appeals, under the manifest injustice standard, agrees holding that the Court violated the plain language of KRS 199.502(3) by failing to inquire as to whether Mother was indigent.

Digested by Elizabeth M. Howell