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Missouri fathers could lose rights with new Senate bill - Part 2

Per our last post, in a new bill heading towards the Missouri Senate fathers must demonstrate consistent involvement with their child in order to protect their parental rights. Currently, in the state of Missouri a father only has 15 days from the day his child is born in which to file for paternity rights. But what if the father was never informed his girlfriend was even pregnant or has already given birth to the child, does he have any rights then?

According to the author of the bill, Professor Mary Beck at the University of Missouri School of Law, and also a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the bill outlines for judicial circuits when the father has not protected his constitutional parental rights, thus making the child legally available for adoption.

Missouri State Representative Rory Ellinger said he is opposed to the bill because the language just isn't right. He stated the bill has the potential to deprive a father of his right to be a parent, as well as removes his obligation to pay child support.

The attorney for the father in the case that spurred adoption attorneys to author the bill, also opposes the bill's language. He suggested changing "actively thwarted by the mother or the child," to include entities such as the court and potential adopted parents. He claims the bill's attempt to change the law to clarify legislative intent in adoption cases actually restricts the constitutional rights of a father-child relationship.

What the bill does not consider is the mitigating social factors that may be involved. A mother could move out of state making it difficult for the father to maintain a consistent financial and custodial relationship with the child. Or the mother simply fails to tell the father he is a father until his parental rights have been forfeited.

The bill has already passed the House in a vote of 126 to 15 and has been referred to the Senate's Health Committee after it was read in the Senate. If a birth certificate does not list a father's name, in order for the father to gain custody of his child he must take the following actions:

•· File an intent to claim responsibility for the child with the Missouri state's punitive father's registry.

•· File a paternity action to declare himself as a custodian of the child.

•· Assume consistent financial support and custodial responsibility for the child.

The bill defines developing a relationship with a child and providing financial support as fulfilling consistent financial and custodial responsibility. Similar laws have been passed in other states.

Source: CBS St. Louis, "Fathers of Illegitimate Children Would Lose Rights to Adoption," Josie Butler, April 10, 2012

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