Appeal No. 121,051: In the Matter of the Adoption of Baby Girl G
Summary calendar; no oral argument
This is an appeal from a termination of paternal rights pursuant to an adoption proceeding under K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 59-2136(h). Sedgwick County District Court granted the proposed adoptive parents' petitions seeking termination of the biological father's rights, finding the father failed to provide the mother with adequate support during her pregnancy. On the father's appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the termination order but remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration of the attorney fees award. The Supreme Court granted the father's petition for review of that portion of the Court of Appeals opinion relating to the termination order. The father sought review of the factual findings made by the district court. In addition, for the first time in the litigation of the case, the father raised arguments asserting the Kansas termination statute is unconstitutional because it denies biological fathers equal protection of the law and infringes on constitutionally protected liberty and due process interests. Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Eric Rosen issued an opinion holding the father failed to preserve the constitutional arguments and the arguments did not fall within recognized exceptions to the preservation requirement. The Supreme Court therefore declined to address the constitutional issues on the merits. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals holding on the inadequacy of the father's support. The case was remanded to the district court to carry out the judgment of the Court of Appeals relating to attorney fees. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Caleb Stegall argued the constitutional issue fell within the exceptions to the preservation requirement and the court should have ruled on the merits of the father's various arguments. He contended the evolving direction of constitutional law tends to support broader inherent rights of biological fathers than courts and legislatures have traditionally recognized.