In re L.A.K.

This case involved the mother and step-father of two children who filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the children’s father after he did not have contact with the children for well over six months. Section 2511 of the Adoption Act permits the termination of parental rights upon proof that the parent refused or failed to perform parental duties for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition to terminate. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had to determine if the petitioners proved their case under Section 2511. The father did not see his children because he had a decade’s-long battle with alcoholism that had destroyed his life. With the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, the father was recovering. He decided to stay away from his children for his first year of sobriety because AA frequently uses a year of sobriety as a benchmark for resuming various activities, such as dating. The Orphans’ Court denied the petition. The Superior Court reversed and rejected the trial court’s findings that the father’s alcoholism and efforts to obtain sobriety presented barriers to his ability to maintain contact with the children and that the father acted with reasonable firmness to overcome these barriers. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the Orphans’ Court order, holding that the Superior Court exceeded its scope of review and sufficient evidence supported the trial court’s determination.

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