In Missouri, the family law courts will decide which parent gets child custody when the parents are disputing such rights. All states authorize child services agencies to petition the family law or juvenile court for termination of a parent's parental rights. Due to the general policy of the legislature in each state to encourage the preservation of the family bond between biological parents and their children, the courts do not lightly grant child custody to third parties nor do they readily approve termination of parental rights petitions.
One case in another state illustrates some conditions that warrant termination and also decides an issue about who is allowed to file a petition for termination. The appellate court held that there was sufficient evidence to terminate a mother's parental rights to her five children for their safety and in their best interest. The court also ruled that a court-appointed child advocate or a guardian ad litem appointed for the child could file and prosecute a petition for termination of parental rights.
The Department of Child Services of Indiana objected to the rights of the court-appointed child advocate to bring a petition for termination, arguing that only the state agency could prosecute such a request. The court ruled that the legislature had passed a provision allowing the child advocate to bring such a petition. The court upheld the termination of mother's parental rights to all five children, pointing to cognitive disabilities and her IQ of 64.
The court held that evidence proved that mother could not solve basic living problems and could not interact sufficiently with peers in her environment. One of the children made significant progress in reducing violence after child custody was given to the father and mother's parental rights were terminated. The children tended to engage in aggressive and violent behavior while in the mother's home. Generally, it is very difficult to succeed in terminating parental rights in Missouri or elsewhere; the biological parent is generally given the benefit of the doubt. A parent who is challenged with a termination of rights petition will benefit greatly by consulting with an attorney who is experienced in that kind of court proceeding.