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Paternity test not enough to give Missouri father custody rights

Our readers in the St. Charles area may have heard the recent news of a Missouri man who was denied custody of his daughter after waiting too long to establish his parental rights. The case illustrates some of the complex issues other Missouri parents may face in child custody proceedings.

Three years ago, the man learned that he had a 9-year-old daughter. The mother had contacted him, noting a physical resemblance between him and the little girl. While a paternity test confirmed that the man was the biological father, another man with whom the mother was romantically involved had been raising the daughter up until that point.

In fact, a prior court order had officially established the other man as the father in 2001, and he was paying child support and had visitation rights until 2005. That year the court removed the daughter from the custody of the mother and granted custody to the non-biological father.

In 2009, the mother sought to regain custody, and the Missouri man, whose biological paternity had recently been established, tried to intervene. Now he wanted parental rights, and the court granted them.

This time the mother and the non-biological father appealed, and the case went to the state Supreme Court in Nebraska, where the mother, daughter and non-biological father reside.

The high court withdrew the Missouri man's parental rights, saying he waited too long to follow up with the mother after learning that she might be pregnant in 1999. Custody of the now 12-year-old girl was given back to the non-biological father, with the court ruling that the biological father "slept on his rights" while the other man "fulfilled the obligations of a father."

This case may serve as an example for other Missouri residents who have concerns about paternity and other child custody issues. Parental rights are some of the most important rights our state affords to citizens, and those rights are worth protecting for the sake of parents and their children.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune, "Court denies Missouri dad's custody rights," June 2, 2012

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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