Missouri man loses child custody in State Supreme Court ruling

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Imagine you find out you are a father seven years after your girlfriend gives birth, but you later find you have no parental rights under another state’s laws because you ‘waited too long’ to establish a parental relationship. In a rather strange fathers’ rights story, a St. Louis, Missouri, man has been denied custody of his 12-year-old daughter by the Supreme Court of another state in a ruling that overturned a lower district court ruling giving the Missouri father custody of his daughter.

The story begins in 1999 when the man travelled to another state for a construction job. He met the mother of his child, who was also romantically involved with another man at the time. He came back to Missouri, where the woman came to visit him even though she thought the other man was the baby’s father. She never told the Missouri man she was pregnant. Awhile later he found out through a co-worker that the woman might be pregnant and was looking for him, but he didn’t think he could be the father of the child and so did not attempt to seek her out.

In 2001, the other man was named the child’s father in a court decree, and in 2005 the mother lost custody of the child to him. In 2009, the mother again tried to contact the St. Louis man as she believed him to be the child’s father based on physical appearances. A paternity test proved he was indeed the child’s father. That same year the mother attempted to regain custody of the child and that is when the Missouri father, in an attempt to assert his parental rights, intervened in the Nebraska custody dispute between the mother and child’s court-decreed father.

The fact that the man didn’t seek her out to learn the paternity of her unborn child back in 1999, in the eyes of the Nebraska State Supreme Court, is the reason the lower court ruling was overturned. The lower court had ruled that once the man learned he might be the child’s father, he had requested a paternity test in a timely manner under state law and was thus awarded custody of his daughter. Both the mother and court-decreed father appealed the lower court’s ruling and the higher court sided with their attorneys and overturned the father’s parental rights.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune “Court denies Missouri dad’s custody rights,” June 2, 2012

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