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Bill that would have expanded stepparents' rights is vetoed

A bill that passed the Missouri Legislature this past session was intended to extend parental rights to non-biological parents. The legislation would have given visitation rights and child custody rights to parents who have established a substantial relationship with a child.

The purpose of this legislation was to provide non-biological parents with the same rights that a blood relative would have. It recognized that there are many life changes that could occur in a family that could require a non-biological parent to step in and play an influential role in raising a child.

For example, the mother of a child may pass away, and a stepfather may want to seek sole custody of the child. The stepfather may have already taken care of the child for years, except without the legal rights that entitle him to have full custody of the child. There are still courts in Missouri that will not provide full custody of the child if a biological father is alive.

Currently, no law in Missouri addresses this hot-button issue. Courts have ruled differently on the rights accorded to non-biological parents. The bill put forth criteria that would have made the rulings of courts in Missouri more uniform. Its sponsor said that the intention of this legislation was provide strict criteria that give a non-biological parent the power to request custody rights. However, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Nixon.

One of the other reasons a stepparent faces great difficulty in securing child custody rights is because Missouri laws prohibit a child from having more than one father or mother. Nixon said he vetoed the legislation is due to the power it would provide state officials to terminate child support orders or impose such duties on a non-biological parent.

Source: The Springfield News-Leader, "Nixon vetoes family law bill sponsored by Rep. Thomas Long," Josh Nelson, July 16, 2012

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