Termination of Parental Rights

There are certain situations when the State of Missouri, usually through the Department of Family Services, can terminate an individual’s parental rights. Before discussion, though, it is important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court has noted that a component of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause is that a parent has the fundamental, constitutional right to rear his/her children. See Troxel v. Granville.
Against this backdrop, the Missouri legislature has delineated three circumstances in which the State may terminate parental rights.
(1) Consent
A parent can consent to terminate his or her parental rights if it is done knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently. This often turns on the specific facts of a given case. In addition, there are specific statutory requirements which must be met in Missouri for a court/judge to properly terminate parental judgment pursuant to consent. Some of the more prominent requirements are contained in sections 211 and 453, RSMo.
(2) State Contested Hearing
If the state has clear, cogent and convincing evidence, then it can terminate parental rights. This inquiry generally turns on whether the parent is unfit to be a parent, and seemingly any type of evidence is admissible to prove this. Things like cleanliness, criminal history, job, family, etc. are all fair game.
(3) Abuse/Neglect
The abuse/neglect route is almost an emergency provision; in other words, if the State has evidence to show that a child is being abused or neglected while in the care of his or her parents, then it can, under the appropriate proceedings, terminate parental rights.
Remember that when we are discussing parental rights there are certain constitutional dimensions in play. Accordingly, a case dealing with an individual’s termination of parental rights involves knowledge of Federal Constitutional Law, Missouri Statutory Law, Missouri Case Precedent, and Missouri Administrative Law. Based on the amount of law that one would need to know, and the emotional subject matter, it is imperative to hire an attorney who knows the law and what the State must do to terminate parental rights.

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