J.F. v. Commonwealth, 2021-CA-1467-ME

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kentucky
Writing for the CourtCOMBS, JUDGE
PartiesJ.F. APPELLANT v. COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES; D.G.J.; AND I.A.S.J., A MINOR CHILD APPELLEES
Decision Date17 June 2022
Docket Number2021-CA-1467-ME

J.F. APPELLANT
v.

COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES; D.G.J.; AND I.A.S.J., A MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

No. 2021-CA-1467-ME

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 17, 2022


NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

APPEAL FROM MUHLENBERG CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE BRIAN WIGGINS, JUDGE ACTION NO. 20-AD-00010

BRIEF FOR APPELLANT:

Marcus R. Little Madisonville, Kentucky

BRIEF FOR APPELLEE CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES:

Dilissa G. Milburn Mayfield, Kentucky

BEFORE: ACREE, COMBS, AND MAZE, JUDGES.

OPINION

COMBS, JUDGE

AFFIRMING

The Appellant, J.F. (Father), appeals from the order of the Muhlenberg Circuit Court terminating his parental rights with respect to one minor child.[1] After our review, we affirm.

1

Father's counsel, Marcus R. Little, has filed a motion for leave to withdraw as counsel and to file a brief pursuant to A.C. v. Cabinet for Health & Family Servs., 362 S.W.3d 361 (Ky. App. 2012), and Anders v. State of California, 386 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396, 18 L.Ed.2d 493 (1967). By order entered on February 14, 2022, this Court passed the motion to withdraw to this merits panel, ordered that the tendered Anders brief be filed, and permitted Father to proceed pro se and to file a supplemental brief within 30 days. No supplemental brief has been filed. We now proceed with our review.

The Appellant, J.F., is the father of a female child, I.A.S.J. (the child), born in 2015. On June 9, 2020, the Cabinet filed a petition for the involuntary termination of parental rights (TPR) in Muhlenberg Circuit Court. The case was tried on November 12, 2021, and we have reviewed the recorded proceeding. The Cabinet presented testimony from the child's foster parent as well as from the two Cabinet workers, Ms. Matthews and Ms. Williams. Father testified in his own behalf. On November 16, 2021, the court entered an opinion and order setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law. On November 30, 2021, the court entered an order terminating parental rights of both parents.

Where, as here, counsel files an Anders brief and a motion to withdraw, "we are obligated to independently review the record and ascertain whether the appeal is, in fact, void of nonfrivolous grounds for reversal." A.C., 362 S.W.3d at 372.

2

That is, we must determine whether the case is lacking in any meritorious ground that might justify a reversal.

In Cabinet for Health and Family Services v. K.H., 423 S.W.3d 204, 209 (Ky. 2014), our Supreme Court explained as follows:

KRS[2] 625.090 provides for a tripartite test which allows for parental rights to be involuntarily terminated only upon a finding, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the following three prongs are satisfied: (1) the child is found or has been adjudged to be an abused or neglected child as defined in KRS 600.020(1); (2) termination of the parent's rights is in the child's best interests; and (3) at least one of the termination grounds enumerated in KRS 625.090(2)(a)-(j) exists

The standard of our review is whether the trial court's findings are clearly erroneous. CR[3] 52.01.

The trial court has a great deal of discretion in an involuntary termination of parental rights action [F]indings of fact of the trial court will not be disturbed unless no substantial evidence exists in the record to support its findings. Clear and convincing proof does not necessarily mean uncontradicted proof. It is sufficient if there is proof of a probative and substantial nature carrying the weight of evidence sufficient to convince ordinarily prudent minded people.

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