Generally, Missouri courts will use a two-pronged analysis to determine if a parent's rights should be terminated. First, since a parent-child relationship is presumed to be beneficial for the child, the ground stated for termination of parental rights must be proven "by clear, cogent and convincing evidence."
However, just meeting this legal standard alone is not enough for the court to terminate a parent's rights. Secondly, the termination of parental rights must also be found to be in the best interests of the child by a "preponderance of the evidence."
In Missouri there are three ways that a parent's rights may be terminated:
- The parent consents to voluntarily terminate his or her rights
- A termination petition is mandatorily filed
- A termination petition is discretionarily filed
The first situation is self-explanatory. There are only certain situations in which a termination petition must or can be filed, many of which have to do with child neglect or abuse allegations , including:
- A court determines a child to be an abandoned infant
- The child has been abandoned
- The child has been in foster care for a minimum of 15 of the last 22 months
- The child was conceived and born as a result of a forcible rape
- The parent aided, abetted, attempted, conspired to or committed murder another of his or her children
- The parent committed a felony assault against the child or another of the parent's children
- The parent commits certain types of abuse against the child
- The parent is guilty of committing a sexual offense or incest against the child or another of the parent's children
It should be noted that there are certain situations or exceptions to the termination of parental rights. Meaning that a parent's rights do not need to be terminated automatically, including if the child is living with a relative or if the termination of parental rights would not be in the child's best interest.
There are other situations in which a person's parental rights may be terminated. Speak with a family law attorney if you are facing termination of your parental rights or child neglect or abuse allegations.