Case Law Update: No Child Abandonment Without Knowledge

Recent Ruling: Termination of parental rights requires proof of statutory grounds by clear, convincing and cogent evidence, and proof of child’s best interest by a preponderance of the evidence. In an action to terminate parental rights, the statutory ground of abandonment means six pre-petition months of “a voluntary and intentional relinquishment of the custody of the child to another, with the intent to never again claim the rights of a parent or perform the duties of a parent; or ... an intentional withholding from the child, without just cause or excuse, by the parent, of his presence, his care, his love, and his protection, maintenance, and the opportunity for the display of filial affection.” Neglect means continuous failure to provide. The juvenile officer alleged and proved that father had no contact with child for six months before amended petition. But evidence showed that father learned of child’s existence only two weeks before filing of amended petition and, on doing so, attempted to develop relationship. Such evidence is not substantial evidence of abandonment or neglect.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD31470

The opinion can be read here.

Source for Post: The Missouri Bar