Legal Rights of Parents of Pregnant Teens in Kentucky

By Tammy Quinn Mckillip
Even though she is still a child, your pregnant teen needs guidance from you, her parent, not her friends..

Your daughter is pregnant. Now what? Even though your teen's body is mature enough to conceive a child, her brain and decision-making skills are most likely not fully developed yet. She'll need your help now more than ever before to navigate the rocky road ahead, whether she realizes it or not. Luckily, Kentucky has put into place certain laws to protect your rights as the parent of a pregnant teen.

Marriage

Although the legal age for consent to marry in Kentucky is 18, your daughter may petition a judge for the right to get married at 16 years of age, with your consent. Even so, the judge can deny the petition for a marriage license to your pregnant teen, if the judge decides the marriage is not in the best interest of your child or the unborn baby. If you believe your daughter and the father of her child are mature enough to form a responsible family, consider enrolling the couple in premarital counseling before petitioning the judge for a marriage license.

Completion of a counseling program can benefit not only the young couple by preparing them for married life, it can also help convince the court that the teens are serious about making the marriage and parenthood work. Ask your church leaders, your family doctor, or your local human services agency about recommending a good premarital counseling program for your daughter and her intended spouse.

Adoption

If your daughter decides to carry her pregnancy full-term and give the child up for adoption, she may do so by petitioning the court for consent to adopt. She does not need your permission to do so. If she is under 18, the judge will appoint a guardian ad litem -- an adult over age18 -- to sign legal documents and ensure her rights are safe-guarded during the adoption process.

If the court decides that she is mentally unstable, has had her parental rights terminated due to abuse or neglect, or has not yet established her legal parental rights 72 hours after the baby's birth, the court may grant adoption consent without her approval. Since the adoption may take place three days after the baby is born, you and your daughter have the opportunity of getting to know or choosing the baby's adoptive parents. In some cases, the adoptive parents may allow your daughter access to the child in the way of visitations or correspondence.

Depending on the contents of your daughter's signed "Biological Parent Consent Form," the adoption records may or may not be sealed, and your grandchild may have legal access to his adoption records upon turning 21. If your daughter has given her consent, your grandchild may establish contact with her -- and you -- at that time.

Abortion

Your teen daughter may choose to abort her pregnancy with written permission from one parent. If you refuse to give her permission for an abortion, she may still petition the court for a judicial bypass for legal consent to terminate the pregnancy.

This is usually only granted for a medical emergency or in cases when the teen has no way of contacting her parents. Even with judicial consent, your daughter will be required to wait at least 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. Medically necessary abortions, such as with cases of potential life endangerment, rape and incest, in Kentucky are covered by Medicaid insurance.

Contact the National Abortion Federation for information on receiving assistance in paying for an abortion. Parents of pregnant teens may not force their daughter to have an abortion and are responsible for the care of their child and grandchild until their daughter is at least 18 years of age.

The Birth Father

If your unborn grandchild's birth father is known and legally acknowledged, you should discuss your daughter's options with him -- and, if he is a minor, his parents -- and establish his intentions with regard to his involvement with the baby.

If your daughter intends to put her child up for adoption, the baby's birth father should sign off on the court documents to avoid potential legal complications after the baby is born .In cases where the birth father denies paternity, you and your daughter should file a petition to involuntarily terminate his parental rights immediately.

When the paternity of the baby is unknown, you and your daughter may petition the court for the termination of all paternal rights. When such a termination is granted, the birth father will still have 60 days from the day of the baby's birth in which to establish his paternity before the court.

Once the father's paternity is established, he may withhold consent for an adoption or request joint or single custody of the baby. Unless the judge has reason to believe the birth father is unfit to parent a child, chances are good he will grant some form of parental or custodial rights to the baby's father. The baby's paternal grandparents may also petition the court for partial custody or visitation rights.