The Termination of a Father's Legal Rights in Missouri

By Brandi Palkoner

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According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, most of the 4,131 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect reported in 2008 were perpetrated by a natural parent. A father who abuses or neglects his child may have his parental rights terminated.

Grounds for Termination

Grounds for termination of a father's parental rights include physical, emotional or sexual abuse against the child or ongoing, untreated mental illness or substance abuse of the father. In cases of abandonment or if the father has attempted to commit or committed a serious crime against the child, Missouri state law requires mandatory filing of the petition to terminate rights.

Clear and Convincing Evidence

Termination of a father's rights in Missouri must be based on the welfare of the child and requires "clear and convincing evidence" of any one of the grounds for termination. Determination of the best interests of the child includes considerations such as the impact and severity of the acts against the child, as well as the potential for future harm.

Voluntary Termination

A father may file a petition with the court to relinquish his parental rights. Missouri courts require that even voluntary termination be in the best interests of the child. Financial obligations of the father may continue even after parental rights have been terminated.