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December 16, 2005
Case Law Development: Limitations Period May Bar Attack of Adoption Judgment Granted with No Consent or Termination of Parental Rights
The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that an action to vacate an adoption judgment was time barred, even though the judgment of adoption had been entered without a termination of parental rights or consent to the adoption by the parents. The parents had executed "consent to custody" forms allowing their two children to be placed with the grandparents, but the court noted that these forms did not meet the statutory requirements for a consent to adoption even if one were inclined to interpret them as having that intent. The parents claimed that they were unaware that an adoption proceeding had been filed. The Court of Appeals concluded that the family court should never have entered the judgment of adoption.
Nonetheless, the court held that the action to attack the adoption was time barred because it was filed more than one year after entry of the judgment. Since there was no allegation of fraud, the one year limitation applied and the family court properly denied her motion to vacate. "Had [Mother's] motion been timely filed, we have no doubt that a different result would have been reached."
The dissent in the case characterized the original adoption judgment as "constitutionally infirm and void" and would not have affirmed its enforcement. "Courts have been quick to give effect to the public policy that adoptions, more than other legal proceedings, need to provide certainty and finality for the child, as well as the adoptive parents.... However, a line must be drawn somewhere, and I am convinced that the facts as stated by the majority place this case clearly over that line."
Storm v. Mullins, 2005 Ky. App. LEXIS 262 (December 9, 2005)
Opinion on the web at http://220.127.116.11/COA/2005-CA-000647.pdf (last visited December 15, 2005 bgf)