Child support paid by third party does not equal child neglect; Proposed Judgments prepared by counsel should not be signed verbatim.

The Constitution protects the fundamental right of a parent to custody of their child even though child’s best interests are the goal of statutes governing adoption. An action for adoption without parental consent terminates, without a separate action for termination of, parental rights. Adoption statutes afford relief on clear, cogent, and convincing evidence of abandonment or neglect. Those statutes make relevant the events of the preceding six months, during which parent maintained regular and substantial contact with child, rendering evidence of parent’s conduct during a more distant time less than clear, cogent, and convincing evidence of abandonment. Satisfaction of child support obligation, from third party instead of directly from parent, does not clearly, cogently, and convincingly show willful neglect.

For the circuit court to sign a proposed judgment exactly as prepared by a party may not be erroneous, per se, but our appellate courts have repeatedly chastised our trial courts for adopting, verbatim, proposed judgments because there may be a problem with the appearance, and even the most conscientious advocate cannot reasonably be expected to prepare a document which would reflect precisely the trial court's view of the evidence.

S.S.S., L.W.V. & M.T.S.-V., Respondents, v. C.V.S., Appellant.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED104249

Originally posted by the Missouri Bar