By:  Erica F. Blankenship

Often, in emergency situations, whether that is a parent’s abuse, neglect, or a number of other circumstances, another relative, friend, or person is granted temporary custody of a child. This has become increasingly more common in Kentucky due to the opioid and drug epidemic. When a parent becomes addicted to substances and cannot care for his or her child, another party must become involved to ensure that child is properly cared for and nurtured. Temporary custody must be granted through a Court Order. A parent can voluntarily grant care of a child to another person through an agreement like a power of attorney.

Once temporary custody is granted, normally, a parent begins a journey to try to regain custody of his or her child. But what happens if they do not? What happens if that parent does not try to achieve whatever needs to be done to regain custody? How can you gain permanency for the child for whom you are caring?

There are a few different options, all of which have separate and distinct legal requirements:

(1) Permanent Custody. If a parent is not attempting to regain custody and a temporary custodian is providing the primary care and support for the child, you may be able to be declared a “permanent custodian” rather than a temporary custodian. This can give the child more stability, often alleviating the need for court reviews. When permanent custody is granted, the Cabinet for Health & Family Services will oftentimes close its case until or unless a need arises for it to be reopened.

(2) De Facto Custody. De Facto Custody has very specific requirements under Kentucky law, requiring that the proposed de facto custodian be providing the primary care and support for the child to the exclusion of the parent. If the parent is providing any care or support for the child, being declared a de facto custodian becomes much harder. De Facto Custody also places you on equal footing with a parent if the parent tries to regain custody later.

(3) Adoption. Before adoption can take place, the biological parent’s parental rights must be terminated. Normally, the state moves to terminate a parent’s rights, but a proposed adoptive parent can also petition the Court to terminate a parent’s rights so he or she can adopt a child. This is a much longer and involved process because termination of a parent’s rights is something considered very sacrosanct and highly regarded by the Courts. If this is the route you consider, expect it to take quite a bit of time. However, once adoption is granted, it cannot be undone – the child is your child, and a new birth certificate is even granted with the adoptive parents’ names on it.

The facts of your case will dictate the best option for you. Our attorneys can help you decide the best course of action for you and the child or children in your care. Please call us for more information!

This Blog is not legal advice and is not intended to be legal advice.  Should you have any questions regarding the subject matter, please contact Erica F. Blankenship, Esq., at Ziegler & Schneider, P.S.C., (859) 426-1300, for additional information.

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