Terminating parental rights is the legal process to sever the legal rights and responsibilities between a parent and child. This is a serious matter and is not taken lightly by the court. There are a number of reasons why a parent or juvenile officer would petition to terminate parental rights of one parent, including danger to the child, abandonment, or adoption. However, a parent may try to terminate the other parent's rights because of a messy divorce.
If you want to terminate the other parent's parenting rights, challenge a petition to terminate your parenting rights, or want to know more about the termination of parental rights in Missouri, contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today.
Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights in Missouri
A petition for the termination of parental rights can be filed by a parent, guardian, or the state through a juvenile officer or the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children's Division. A parent can consent to give up their parenting rights. Alternatively, the other parent or the state can file a petition to take away the other parent's parental rights.
When one parent does not consent to terminate their parental rights, the parent will have a chance to respond to the petition. The court will first need to find that the grounds for terminating parental rights are proven by clear and convincing evidence. Additionally, the court will consider whether termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child. Factors in determining whether to terminate the parent-child relationship include:
- Emotional ties to the birth parent;
- Regular visitation or other contact with the child;
- Payment by the parent for the cost of care and maintenance of the child when financially able to do so;
- Whether additional services would enable a return of the child to the parent within an ascertainable period of time;
- Parent's disinterest in or lack of commitment to the child;
- Conviction of the parent of a felony offense that will deprive the child of a stable home for a period of years; or
- Deliberate acts of the parent, or acts of another person the parent knows or should have known that subjects the child to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm.
Consent to Termination of Parental Rights
Consent to termination of parental rights generally occurs when someone is trying to adopt the child. Adoption generally requires the birth parent to give up their parental rights so the child can be adopted by another family, a stepparent, or another relative. If a parent believes it is in the best interest of the child and the child's future welfare, a parent can voluntarily consent to the termination of parental rights.
Mandatory Petition for Termination of Parental Rights
Under Missouri Revised Statutes § 211.447.2, there are certain situations where the state is required to file a petition for termination of parental rights. This includes:
- The child has been in foster care for at least fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months;
- The child is determined to be an abandoned infant;
- The parent has committed serious crimes against the child or another child of the parent, including:
- Voluntary manslaughter;
- Felony assault that resulted in serious bodily injury;
- Sexual offenses; or
- Pornography-related offenses.
Other Grounds to Petition for Termination of Parental Rights
There are additional grounds for termination of parental rights, based on one or more of the following conditions, under Missouri Revised Statutes § 211.447.5:
- The child has been abandoned;
- The child has been abused or neglected, including consideration of the parent's mental condition, chemical dependency, severe acts of abuse, or repeated failure by the parent to provide for the child;
- The child has been under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for a period of one year and the conditions which led to the assumption of jurisdiction still persist;
- The child was conceived and born as a result of an act of forcible rape or rape in the first degree; or
- The parent is unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship because of a consistent pattern of abuse.
Terminating Parental Rights When the Parent Cannot Be Found
In some adoptions, it can be difficult for one parent to locate the child's other parent to serve notice of the petition or to get consent to terminate parental rights. If the parent cannot be located, the court may conduct a hearing to determine the parent's name or identity. The court may require publication of a notice of the hearing and allow a reasonable time for the other parent to respond. If the parent does not respond and the court has found that sufficient measures were taken to try and locate the other parent, the court may terminate the unknown parent's parenting rights.
Parental Rights Representation in Missouri
If you have any questions about termination of parenting rights, the consequences of giving up your parental rights, or how to contest such a hearing, talk to your Missouri family law attorney. Your lawyer can advise you on the best option for your situation to protect your rights and ensure the best for your child. Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm in Raymore online or by calling (816) 331-9968.