Roberts Wooten & Zimmer LLC
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What is an unfit parent?

The standards for a fit parent are often used in custody battles to demonstrate one parent as more stable than the other. However, parental fitness can also come into play in situations where a step parent, relative, friend or neighbor seeks to adopt a child whom they are concerned for.

Here are the factors that are considered to determine whether a parent is unfit to care for his or her child.

The juvenile court can terminate the rights of a parent if a juvenile officer, children’s division adoption agency or prospective parent files a petition with the court. The court may choose to terminate parental rights if there is evidence for termination and it is in the best interest of the child.

Considerations made by the court

To make a decision, over the course of the proceeding, Missouri law requires the court or judge to consider whether the parent has:

  • Emotional ties to the child
  • Maintained regular visitation with the child
  • Made payments for the cost of care and maintenance of the child when financially able
  • The potential to be a fit parent within a reasonable amount of time if additional services are provided
  • Demonstrated any disinterest in or lack of commitment to the child
  • Committed a felony offense that could deprived the child of a stable home
  • Created or allowed another person to risk physical or mental harm to the child

The disability or disease of a parent cannot serve as a basis to terminate parental rights, unless the disability or disease causes harm to the child.

When is a parent automatically unfit?

It is presumed that to a parent is unfit to care of his or her child if:

  • The parent has abused the child
  • The parent has abused drugs in front of the child
  • The parent has become unable to care appropriately for the child’s physical, mental or emotional needs
  • The parent has had rights to another child involuntarily terminated within the last three years
  • The birth mother or the child tested over .08 blood alcohol content or tested positive for cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, a controlled substance or a prescription drug within eight hours after the child's birth

Other conditions and exceptions may apply to these conditions.

Non-departmental adoption

If a child you know may be living with unfit parents, you may be eligible to adopt the child. These types of adoptions are usually made for stepchildren, relatives, friends or neighbors.

If you are seeking custody arrangement advice or are interested in a non-departmental adoption, call an experienced family law attorney  to learn more about your options. Each situation can come with varying legal complexities. A lawyer can help prepared you to address the unexpected in court.

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Roberts Wooten & Zimmer LLC
10438 Business 21
P.O. Box 888
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Phone: 636-481-4088
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