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Child custody and adoption issues in question in Missouri

Gone are the days when it was rare for an unmarried woman to give birth to a child. In our modern culture many babies are born to women who may or may not be in a committed relationship with the child's father. With changing attitudes and cultural shifts, it can be difficult to determine the legal rights that individuals possess in certain circumstances.

One child custody case that brings up some of these issues involves a Missouri woman who gave birth to a child in 2004. At the time, her boyfriend did not have his name on the birth certificate because he was waiting for the results of a DNA test to prove he was the father.

Missouri law requires that a man declare paternity within 15 days of a child's birth in order to gain fathers' rights. In this case, the 15 days had passed by the time the man received the results of the test, making it too late to declare paternity.

In the meantime, the mother of the child had decided to put the baby up for adoption and had placed the child in the care of a family who agreed to adopt the baby. This began a six-year legal battle in which the father of the child fought to gain custody, which he received in 2010.

A bill is now making its way through the General Assembly to the Senate that would protect the rights of mothers and allow an adoption to take place without the consent of the father. The bill was written by a female professor who said one of the goals was to clear up confusion on who could intervene in an adoption.

Others feel that the bill is biased against men and fails to take into account social factors that could make it difficult for a man to meet set criteria to gain custody. Missouri readers will have to wait and see if the bill is passed, but one thing is for sure, this is not the last time that cultural shifts will result in legal debate.

Source: KMOX Capitol Bureau, "Fathers of Illegitimate Children Would Lose Rights to Adoption," Josie Butler, April 10, 2012

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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