Failing to meaningfully engage or interact with your child for an extended period of time may result in the termination of your parental rights.
The Children’s Division of the State of Missouri’s Department of Social Services took a 3-year-old into protective custody after she was found wandering the street by herself. Father attended the first supervised meeting with his child, but did not return phone calls from the Children’s Division and ceased all interactions for 14 months. During those 14 months, the child was in foster care, and the goal changed from reunification to terminating the father’s right and allowing the child to be adopted. Father resurfaced before the adoption was finalized, and during a supervised visitation with his child, he was unable to meaningful engage with her. The child expressed that she did not want to see her father because she did not want to leave her adoptive parents.
Parental rights can be terminated if a parent abandons their child. When deciding whether to terminate parental rights, Missouri courts look at two things: whether there are grounds for terminating parental rights under § 211.447 R.S.Mo. and if it is in the child’s best interest to do so. Grounds for termination can occur if:
1) the parent voluntarily relinquishes their right;
2) if the parent left the child without any way to know who the child is and the parent never came back to claim the child; or
3) if the parent leaves the child without any parental support and makes no attempts to visit the child even though they have the ability.
Involuntary child support taken from paychecks or social security disability does not count towards “parental support” when determining child abandonment for parental termination. Courts look for parental care through love, affection, care, and protection as parental support; money does not equal parental care.
If you’re concerned about your parental rights, contact our office for a consultation.