The Missouri Supreme Court issued an opinion this week affirming a decision by a circuit court terminating a father’s parental rights and granting a step-parent adoption.
S.S.S., L.W.V. & M.T.S-V vs. C.V.S., SC96307. The Court found that the father abandoned and neglected his child. The Court’s opinion was not unanimous. The opinion appears to depart from prior law in situations of abandonment and neglect. Abandonment occurs where a parent voluntarily and intentionally fails to parent a child for sixty days when a child is under the age of one year and for six months for a child one year or older. Section 453.040(7) RSMo. Neglect includes the failure to provide “necessary care and protection.” Section 453.040(7) RSMo. There were a number of different circumstances the circuit court relied upon in finding that father abandoned and neglected the child, including, but not limited to: father was able to see his child only a few times a year (father lived in the State of California); father was late to some of the visits; the child did not have a strong bond with father; paternal grandmother sent money to the child from Father’s trust/inheritance, but the money did not come directly from father. The Court looked at the quality of the father’s contacts with the child and determined that “the circuit court could have reasonably found, despite frequent contacts and visits, Father’s relationship with Child was merely superficial or tenuous.” The Court found father did not have “meaningful contact” with the child.
In a dissenting opinion, several judges disagreed with the majority. The dissent concluded, “The circuit court’s judgment was against the weight of the evidence and results in a significant departure from prior case law establishing for involuntary termination of parental rights….” The dissent reasoned that mother and step-father must prove willful abandonment by the father, not that the father must prove he has not willfully abandoned the child. Second, the dissent concluded, “There is no evidence father demonstrated a long-term lack of interest in the child or had only ‘occasional contact’ with the child.” Third, the dissent concluded that “the circuit court’s determination that father does not have meaningful interaction with the child and is ‘superficial and tenuous’ is not supported by the record and misapplies the law.”
The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision affirming an adoption where a parent has superficial or tenuous contact with a child rather than meaningful contact arguably broadens a court’s ability to terminate a parent’s rights to a child. It’s also clear that each type of adoption case will be decided on the particular facts involved.
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I have been working with Mr. Hamblin for almost one and a half years and consider him to be one of the finest Lawyers I have ever done business with. Mr. Hamblin’s understanding of Missouri law is to say the least encyclopedic. His areas of expertise are broad and far-reaching. While working with Mr. Hamblin I found that he has an innate gift for what he does. His availability, presence in the courtroom, and demeanor with prosecutors, plaintiffs, witnesses and defendants are unparalleled in Missouri’s capital. Jefferson City is the epicenter of all legislation in this great state of Missouri,…
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I called Mr. Hamblin to represent my family member. When we went in to have a meeting, Mr. Hamblin was very honest said he felt that he could represent him and help with the matter that he had been charged with. I was so glad that I had contacted Mr. Hamblin on this matter, because he did just what he said that he would do. He did so in a timely and professional matter, and the expense was very minimal considering that this could have been a life-changing matter. I want to say a big Thank you Mr. Hamblin for…
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Mr. Hamblin succeeded in winning a child custody modification case for me that most lawyers I spoke with wouldn't even take on. Many told me that modifying a child custody agreement was nearly impossible. Due to the changes at my children's Father's house and the toll it was taking on their mental health, my children needed this modification and were begging for a change. Mr. Hamblin helped give my children a voice and get what they call "A Christmas Miracle" when we won full custody of them a few days before Christmas. I would recommend his counsel to anyone needing…
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Scott is a very compassionate but honest man. I have known Scott for 10+ years. I met him while fostering children with Cole County Children's Division. When he became the adoption lawyer for Cole County Children's Division in 2007 my husband and I were one of the first to use him to become adoptive parents to our then two-year-old foster son. Our son just turned 13 years old this year. In 2013, he represented my husband and me to get guardianship for our foster daughter. We are beyond blessed to have such a great guy like Scott to represent us.…
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