Blood relation is not everything; Missouri courts also look to the relationship between an adult and the minor child when determining what is in the child’s best interest.
A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Missouri, Bowers v. Bowers, confirmed a circuit court’s decision to give full custody to the step-father of a young child. The mother started dating the step-father when she was pregnant with the child. The biological father agreed to not assert his rights as the father, but never officially signed them away. When the child was born, mother put the step-father’s name on the birth certificate and step-father signed the paternity affidavit. Two year later, mother and step-father married, but filed for divorce after two years of marriage. Both requested sole legal and sole physical custody. During the divorce proceedings, mother invited the biological father into the minor child’s life for the first time, arguing that the step-father is not the child’s biological father and should not be granted custody. The biological father intervened as a third party requesting custody as well. The court ultimately found that neither biological parent was fit to raise the child, and granted full custody to the step-father who had a strong, positive relationship with the child.
While there is a presumption that the child’s best interests are served by being in the custody, it is not a requirement. If the biological parents are unfit, unsuitable, or unable to raise the child the court may award custody to a third party, such as a step-parent, so long as they prove that they are able to provide an adequate and stable environment for the child.
If you want to know more about your custodial rights, contact our office for a consultation.