Defining “Aggrieved” in KRS 620.110-Published Opinion from Kentucky Court of Appeals

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S.T., et al. v. Cabinet for Health and Family Services, et al.

 

In a dependency, neglect, and abuse action, after a temporary removal hearing, custody of the minor children at issue was given to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (“the Cabinet”), which put the minor child in foster care. Mother eventually named as a potential placement S.J. and D.J. (collectively, “the Js”)—a married couple Mother had met through a ministry and considered to be family friends. Father named no potential placements. Temporary custody was given to the Js during a pretrial hearing. Eventually, the Js moved for permanent custody of the minor children.

 

Later, S.T. and J.T. (collectively, “the Ts”) moved to intervene and seek custody of the minor children, arguing that the Cabinet was aware family members were available and willing to take the minor children, that the Cabinet failed to investigate the Ts’ suitability as custodians, and that they should be given preference as available, qualified relatives. They also argued that any person aggrieved by the issuance of a temporary custody order may file a petition for immediate entitlement to custody pursuant to KRS 620.110.

 

The motion to intervene was heard and the trial court later denied the motion, because, it opined, C.K. v. Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 529 S.W.3d 786 (Ky. App. 2017), “explicitly states that the purpose of KRS § 620.110 is to provide an immediate remedy for natural parents who disagree with a Court’s ruling following a temporary removal hearing. As neither [of the Ts] are the natural parents of either [minor child], they cannot utilize KRS § 620.110 to intervene in th[e] matter.” After the permanent custody hearing, the trial court gave permanent custody to S.J.

 

Although the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, based largely on its conclusion that the Ts were not properly before it, it also held that the Ts have not shown themselves to be “aggrieved” by the trial court’s order. It reasoned that the trial court mischaracterized the holding of C.K., and that not only biological parents may move for immediate entitlement to custody. It further reasoned that to be “aggrieved,” the party must show a concrete and personal connection between the party moving to intervene and the children—the party must have constitutional standing. Plausible examples of such a connection listed by the Court of Appeals are (1) previously exercising custody over the children; (2) having had visitation with the children; and (3) being a party to the action below.

 

Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon