What Does It Mean To Terminate Parental Rights In Missouri?


Terminating parental rights is not an easy thing to discuss or deal with. Our attorneys at Bandré, Hunt & Snider want to help. Our skilled team of family law attorneys can help you navigate the complexities of these laws and make the process a little less stressful. In need of representation? Give us a call today. 

Terminating a parent’s rights means that the person’s rights as a parent are taken away. That person is no longer the child’s legal parent. This means:

  • The parent-child relationship no longer exists 
  • The parent no longer gets to raise the child 
  • The parent usually has no right to visit or talk with the child 
  • The parent no longer has to pay child support 
  • The parent is removed from the child’s birth certificate 
  • The child can be adopted without the parent’s permission

Who Can Terminate Parental Rights In Missouri?

A parent, guardian or other family member can file a petition asking to terminate a parent’s rights. If Child Protective Services has been involved with a family, the Department of Family Services can file a petition asking a judge to terminate a parent’s rights. This usually happens after DFS has been involved with the family for a year or more to try and fix the problems. If the parent does not make progress, or if the problems are very serious, DFS can ask the District Attorney to file a termination of parental rights case.

How Are Parental Rights Terminated?

Generally, in 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 assumed to be beneficial for the child, the ground stated for termination of a parent’s rights must be proven “by clear, cogent and convincing evidence.”

But, meeting this legal standard isn’t enough for the court to terminate parental 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.”

What Are The Reasons To Terminate A Parent’s Rights?

  1. Abandonment
  2. Neglect 
  3. The parent is unfit 
  4. There is a serious risk of physical, emotional or mental injury if the child is returned to the parent
  5. Parent has made minimal effort to support the child 
  6. Failure to correct problems after Child Protective Services has removed a child from the home 
  7. Sexual assault 
  8. Mental illness or mental instability 
  9. Alcohol or drug incapacity 

But no matter what, the judge has to decide that it would be in the child’s best interest to terminate their parent’s rights. The person that is asking to terminate the parent’s rights has to prove that one of the grounds above exists, and the termination would be in the child’s best interest.

Also, it should be noted that there are certain situations and exceptions to the termination of a parent’s rights. This means 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 a parent’s rights would be against the child’s best interest. 

There are other occasions in which a parent’s rights can be terminated. Call Bandré Hunt and Snider to talk to a family law attorney to learn more about this process.

Where Do I File To Terminate Parental Rights In Missouri?

You can file for termination in the District Court of the county where the child lives. You can also file in the county where one of the parents lives.

What If I Haven’t Heard From The Other Parent, Can I Terminate Their Rights?

No. And if you haven’t heard from the other parent in quite some time, it’ll take significantly longer to terminate their rights. If you file a case against the other parent, you have to make sure that person is “served” in person with copies of the legal papers you had filed. This allows the other parent to show up in court and defend themselves, if they choose to do so. 

If you don’t know the whereabouts of the other parent, the judge will expect you to do everything in your power to find them. The judge will expect a valiant effort, this includes checking with friends, checking with their employer, looking for them online, and more. And after all of that, if you still cannot find the other parent, you can ask a judge’s permission to post a notice in a newspaper. But this is not allowed unless you have really tried everything you can to find the other parent.

 Can I Terminate My Rights?

In some situations, a parent may decide to give up their own parental rights. But, this still requires the approval from a judge and from the child’s other parent. 

Some reasons why some parents choose to terminate their parental rights include: Allowing another person to adopt their child, if the parent is not physically capable of taking care of their child, or when a child requires special care that the parents cannot provide and wish to give up care of the child to the state.

Adoption Requires The Termination Of Parental Rights In Missouri

Whether it is voluntary or involuntary, the terminations of parents’ rights is necessary for an adoption to take place. For example, if a stepmother wants to adopt their stepchild, the rights of the biological mother has to be terminated in order for an adoption to take place. Or if a couple wishes to adopt a child, the child’s biological parents must have their rights terminated.

Call The Attorneys At Bandré, Hunt & Snider To Navigate Termination Of Parental Rights

In need of a family law attorney? We know family law is stressful, emotional, extensive and sometimes painful. We want to make the process as simple as possible and give you peace of mind. Give the skilled attorneys at Bandré, Hunt & Snider a call today to get the representation that you and your family deserve.