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211.447. Petition to terminate parental rights filed, when--juvenile court may terminate parental rights, when--investigation to be made--grounds for termination.

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Petition to terminate parental rights filed, when--juvenile court mayterminate parental rights, when--investigation to bemade--grounds for termination. 211.447.1.Any information that could justify the filing of apetition to terminate parental rights may be referred to the juvenileofficer by any person.The juvenile officer shall make a preliminaryinquiry and if it does not appear to the juvenile officer that a petitionshould be filed, such officer shall so notify the informant in writingwithin thirty days of the referral.Such notification shall include thereasons that the petition will not be filed.Thereupon, the informant maybring the matter directly to the attention of the judge of the juvenilecourt by presenting the information in writing, and if it appears to thejudge that the information could justify the filing of a petition, thejudge may order the juvenile officer to take further action, includingmaking a further preliminary inquiry or filing a petition. 2.Except as provided for in subsection 4 of this section, a petitionto terminate the parental rights of the child's parent or parents shall befiled by the juvenile officer or the division, or if such a petition hasbeen filed by another party, the juvenile officer or the division shallseek to be joined as a party to the petition, when: (1)Information available to the juvenile officer or the divisionestablishes that the child has been in foster care for at least fifteen ofthe most recent twenty-two months; or (2)A court of competent jurisdiction has determined the child to bean abandoned infant.For purposes of this subdivision, an "infant" meansany child one year of age or under at the time of filing of the petition.The court may find that an infant has been abandoned if: (a)The parent has left the child under circumstances that theidentity of the child was unknown and could not be ascertained, despitediligent searching, and the parent has not come forward to claim the child;or (b)The parent has, without good cause, left the child without anyprovision for parental support and without making arrangements to visit orcommunicate with the child, although able to do so; or (3)A court of competent jurisdiction has determined that the parenthas: (a)Committed murder of another child of the parent; or (b)Committed voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent;or (c)Aided or abetted, attempted, conspired or solicited to commitsuch a murder or voluntary manslaughter; or (d)Committed a felony assault that resulted in serious bodily injuryto the child or to another child of the parent. 3.A termination of parental rights petition shall be filed by thejuvenile officer or the division, or if such a petition has been filed byanother party, the juvenile officer or the division shall seek to be joinedas a party to the petition, within sixty days of the judicialdeterminations required in subsection 2 of this section, except as providedin subsection 4 of this section.Failure to comply with this requirementshall not deprive the court of jurisdiction to adjudicate a petition fortermination of parental rights which is filed outside of sixty days. 4.If grounds exist for termination of parental rights pursuant tosubsection 2 of this section, the juvenile officer or the division may, butis not required to, file a petition to terminate the parental rights of thechild's parent or parents if: (1)The child is being cared for by a relative; or (2)There exists a compelling reason for determining that filing sucha petition would not be in the best interest of the child, as documented inthe permanency plan which shall be made available for court review; or (3)The family of the child has not been provided such services asprovided for in section 211.183. 5.The juvenile officer or the division may file a petition toterminate the parental rights of the child's parent when it appears thatone or more of the following grounds for termination exist: (1)The child has been abandoned.For purposes of this subdivision a"child" means any child over one year of age at the time of filing of thepetition.The court shall find that the child has been abandoned if, for aperiod of six months or longer: (a)The parent has left the child under such circumstances that theidentity of the child was unknown and could not be ascertained, despitediligent searching, and the parent has not come forward to claim the child;or (b)The parent has, without good cause, left the child without anyprovision for parental support and without making arrangements to visit orcommunicate with the child, although able to do so; (2)The child has been abused or neglected.In determining whetherto terminate parental rights pursuant to this subdivision, the court shallconsider and make findings on the following conditions or acts of theparent: (a)A mental condition which is shown by competent evidence either tobe permanent or such that there is no reasonable likelihood that thecondition can be reversed and which renders the parent unable to knowinglyprovide the child the necessary care, custody and control; (b)Chemical dependency which prevents the parent from consistentlyproviding the necessary care, custody and control of the child and whichcannot be treated so as to enable the parent to consistently provide suchcare, custody and control; (c)A severe act or recurrent acts of physical, emotional or sexualabuse toward the child or any child in the family by the parent, includingan act of incest, or by another under circumstances that indicate that theparent knew or should have known that such acts were being committed towardthe child or any child in the family; or (d)Repeated or continuous failure by the parent, although physicallyor financially able, to provide the child with adequate food, clothing,shelter, or education as defined by law, or other care and controlnecessary for the child's physical, mental, or emotional health anddevelopment; (3)The child has been under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courtfor a period of one year, and the court finds that the conditions which ledto the assumption of jurisdiction still persist, or conditions of apotentially harmful nature continue to exist, that there is littlelikelihood that those conditions will be remedied at an early date so thatthe child can be returned to the parent in the near future, or thecontinuation of the parent-child relationship greatly diminishes thechild's prospects for early integration into a stable and permanent home.In determining whether to terminate parental rights under this subdivision,the court shall consider and make findings on the following: (a)The terms of a social service plan entered into by the parent andthe division and the extent to which the parties have made progress incomplying with those terms; (b)The success or failure of the efforts of the juvenile officer,the division or other agency to aid the parent on a continuing basis inadjusting his circumstances or conduct to provide a proper home for thechild; (c)A mental condition which is shown by competent evidence either tobe permanent or such that there is no reasonable likelihood that thecondition can be reversed and which renders the parent unable to knowinglyprovide the child the necessary care, custody and control; (d)Chemical dependency which prevents the parent from consistentlyproviding the necessary care, custody and control over the child and whichcannot be treated so as to enable the parent to consistently provide suchcare, custody and control; or (4)The parent has been found guilty or pled guilty to a felonyviolation of chapter 566, RSMo, when the child or any child in the familywas a victim, or a violation of section 568.020, RSMo, when the child orany child in the family was a victim.As used in this subdivision, a"child" means any person who was under eighteen years of age at the time ofthe crime and who resided with such parent or was related within the thirddegree of consanguinity or affinity to such parent; or (5)The child was conceived and born as a result of an act offorcible rape.When the biological father has pled guilty to, or isconvicted of, the forcible rape of the birth mother, such a plea orconviction shall be conclusive evidence supporting the termination of thebiological father's parental rights; or (6)The parent is unfit to be a party to the parent and childrelationship because of a consistent pattern of committing a specificabuse, including but not limited to, abuses as defined in section 455.010,RSMo, child abuse or drug abuse before the child or of specific conditionsdirectly relating to the parent and child relationship either of which aredetermined by the court to be of a duration or nature that renders theparent unable, for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriatelyfor the ongoing physical, mental or emotional needs of the child.It ispresumed that a parent is unfit to be a party to the parent-childrelationship upon a showing that within a three-year period immediatelyprior to the termination adjudication, the parent's parental rights to oneor more other children were involuntarily terminated pursuant to subsection2 or 4 of this section or subdivisions (1), (2), (3) or (4) of subsection 5of this section or similar laws of other states. 6.The juvenile court may terminate the rights of a parent to a childupon a petition filed by the juvenile officer or the division, or inadoption cases, by a prospective parent, if the court finds that thetermination is in the best interest of the child and when it appears byclear, cogent and convincing evidence that grounds exist for terminationpursuant to subsection 2, 4 or 5 of this section. 7.When considering whether to terminate the parent-childrelationship pursuant to subsection 2 or 4 of this section or subdivision(1), (2), (3) or (4) of subsection 5 of this section, the court shallevaluate and make findings on the following factors, when appropriate andapplicable to the case: (1)The emotional ties to the birth parent; (2)The extent to which the parent has maintained regular visitationor other contact with the child; (3)The extent of payment by the parent for the cost of care andmaintenance of the child when financially able to do so including the timethat the child is in the custody of the division or other child-placingagency; (4)Whether additional services would be likely to bring aboutlasting parental adjustment enabling a return of the child to the parentwithin an ascertainable period of time; (5)The parent's disinterest in or lack of commitment to the child; (6)The conviction of the parent of a felony offense that the courtfinds is of such a nature that the child will be deprived of a stable homefor a period of years; provided, however, that incarceration in and ofitself shall not be grounds for termination of parental rights; (7)Deliberate acts of the parent or acts of another of which theparent knew or should have known that subjects the child to a substantialrisk of physical or mental harm. 8.The court may attach little or no weight to infrequentvisitations, communications, or contributions.It is irrelevant in atermination proceeding that the maintenance of the parent-childrelationship may serve as an inducement for the parent's rehabilitation. 9.In actions for adoption pursuant to chapter 453, RSMo, the courtmay hear and determine the issues raised in a petition for adoptioncontaining a prayer for termination of parental rights filed with the sameeffect as a petition permitted pursuant to subsection 2, 4, or 5 of thissection.(L. 1978 H.B. 972 § 2, A.L. 1982 H.B. 1171, et al., A.L. 1985 H.B.366, et al., A.L. 1990 H.B. 1370, et al., A.L. 1997 H.B. 343,A.L. 1998 H.B. 1822 merged with S.B. 674, A.L. 2007 S.B. 84)CROSS REFERENCE:Application of law to adoption petitions filed on or after August 28,1997, RSMo 453.012(2004) Provision concerning foster care custody is only a trigger forfiling a termination petition and not an independent ground fortermination.In re M.D.R., 124 S.W.3d 469 (Mo.banc).(2004) Essential part of determination to terminate parental rightsis prospective analysis of future harm to child by continuedrelationship with parent.In re K.A.W., 133 S.W.3d 1 (Mo.banc).
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  • Petition to terminate parental rights filed, when--juvenile court mayterminate parental rights, when--investigation to bemade--grounds for termination.

    211.447. 1. Any information that could justify the filing of apetition to terminate parental rights may be referred to the juvenileofficer by any person. The juvenile officer shall make a preliminaryinquiry and if it does not appear to the juvenile officer that a petitionshould be filed, such officer shall so notify the informant in writingwithin thirty days of the referral. Such notification shall include thereasons that the petition will not be filed. Thereupon, the informant maybring the matter directly to the attention of the judge of the juvenilecourt by presenting the information in writing, and if it appears to thejudge that the information could justify the filing of a petition, thejudge may order the juvenile officer to take further action, includingmaking a further preliminary inquiry or filing a petition.

    2. Except as provided for in subsection 4 of this section, a petitionto terminate the parental rights of the child's parent or parents shall befiled by the juvenile officer or the division, or if such a petition hasbeen filed by another party, the juvenile officer or the division shallseek to be joined as a party to the petition, when:

    (1) Information available to the juvenile officer or the divisionestablishes that the child has been in foster care for at least fifteen ofthe most recent twenty-two months; or

    (2) A court of competent jurisdiction has determined the child to bean abandoned infant. For purposes of this subdivision, an "infant" meansany child one year of age or under at the time of filing of the petition.The court may find that an infant has been abandoned if:

    (a) The parent has left the child under circumstances that theidentity of the child was unknown and could not be ascertained, despitediligent searching, and the parent has not come forward to claim the child;or

    (b) The parent has, without good cause, left the child without anyprovision for parental support and without making arrangements to visit orcommunicate with the child, although able to do so; or

    (3) A court of competent jurisdiction has determined that the parenthas:

    (a) Committed murder of another child of the parent; or

    (b) Committed voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent;or

    (c) Aided or abetted, attempted, conspired or solicited to commitsuch a murder or voluntary manslaughter; or

    (d) Committed a felony assault that resulted in serious bodily injuryto the child or to another child of the parent.

    3. A termination of parental rights petition shall be filed by thejuvenile officer or the division, or if such a petition has been filed byanother party, the juvenile officer or the division shall seek to be joinedas a party to the petition, within sixty days of the judicialdeterminations required in subsection 2 of this section, except as providedin subsection 4 of this section. Failure to comply with this requirementshall not deprive the court of jurisdiction to adjudicate a petition fortermination of parental rights which is filed outside of sixty days.

    4. If grounds exist for termination of parental rights pursuant tosubsection 2 of this section, the juvenile officer or the division may, butis not required to, file a petition to terminate the parental rights of thechild's parent or parents if:

    (1) The child is being cared for by a relative; or

    (2) There exists a compelling reason for determining that filing sucha petition would not be in the best interest of the child, as documented inthe permanency plan which shall be made available for court review; or

    (3) The family of the child has not been provided such services asprovided for in section 211.183.

    5. The juvenile officer or the division may file a petition toterminate the parental rights of the child's parent when it appears thatone or more of the following grounds for termination exist:

    (1) The child has been abandoned. For purposes of this subdivision a"child" means any child over one year of age at the time of filing of thepetition. The court shall find that the child has been abandoned if, for aperiod of six months or longer:

    (a) The parent has left the child under such circumstances that theidentity of the child was unknown and could not be ascertained, despitediligent searching, and the parent has not come forward to claim the child;or

    (b) The parent has, without good cause, left the child without anyprovision for parental support and without making arrangements to visit orcommunicate with the child, although able to do so;

    (2) The child has been abused or neglected. In determining whetherto terminate parental rights pursuant to this subdivision, the court shallconsider and make findings on the following conditions or acts of theparent:

    (a) A mental condition which is shown by competent evidence either tobe permanent or such that there is no reasonable likelihood that thecondition can be reversed and which renders the parent unable to knowinglyprovide the child the necessary care, custody and control;

    (b) Chemical dependency which prevents the parent from consistentlyproviding the necessary care, custody and control of the child and whichcannot be treated so as to enable the parent to consistently provide suchcare, custody and control;

    (c) A severe act or recurrent acts of physical, emotional or sexualabuse toward the child or any child in the family by the parent, includingan act of incest, or by another under circumstances that indicate that theparent knew or should have known that such acts were being committed towardthe child or any child in the family; or

    (d) Repeated or continuous failure by the parent, although physicallyor financially able, to provide the child with adequate food, clothing,shelter, or education as defined by law, or other care and controlnecessary for the child's physical, mental, or emotional health anddevelopment;

    (3) The child has been under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courtfor a period of one year, and the court finds that the conditions which ledto the assumption of jurisdiction still persist, or conditions of apotentially harmful nature continue to exist, that there is littlelikelihood that those conditions will be remedied at an early date so thatthe child can be returned to the parent in the near future, or thecontinuation of the parent-child relationship greatly diminishes thechild's prospects for early integration into a stable and permanent home.In determining whether to terminate parental rights under this subdivision,the court shall consider and make findings on the following:

    (a) The terms of a social service plan entered into by the parent andthe division and the extent to which the parties have made progress incomplying with those terms;

    (b) The success or failure of the efforts of the juvenile officer,the division or other agency to aid the parent on a continuing basis inadjusting his circumstances or conduct to provide a proper home for thechild;

    (c) A mental condition which is shown by competent evidence either tobe permanent or such that there is no reasonable likelihood that thecondition can be reversed and which renders the parent unable to knowinglyprovide the child the necessary care, custody and control;

    (d) Chemical dependency which prevents the parent from consistentlyproviding the necessary care, custody and control over the child and whichcannot be treated so as to enable the parent to consistently provide suchcare, custody and control; or

    (4) The parent has been found guilty or pled guilty to a felonyviolation of chapter 566, RSMo, when the child or any child in the familywas a victim, or a violation of section 568.020, RSMo, when the child orany child in the family was a victim. As used in this subdivision, a"child" means any person who was under eighteen years of age at the time ofthe crime and who resided with such parent or was related within the thirddegree of consanguinity or affinity to such parent; or

    (5) The child was conceived and born as a result of an act offorcible rape. When the biological father has pled guilty to, or isconvicted of, the forcible rape of the birth mother, such a plea orconviction shall be conclusive evidence supporting the termination of thebiological father's parental rights; or

    (6) The parent is unfit to be a party to the parent and childrelationship because of a consistent pattern of committing a specificabuse, including but not limited to, abuses as defined in section 455.010,RSMo, child abuse or drug abuse before the child or of specific conditionsdirectly relating to the parent and child relationship either of which aredetermined by the court to be of a duration or nature that renders theparent unable, for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriatelyfor the ongoing physical, mental or emotional needs of the child. It ispresumed that a parent is unfit to be a party to the parent-childrelationship upon a showing that within a three-year period immediatelyprior to the termination adjudication, the parent's parental rights to oneor more other children were involuntarily terminated pursuant to subsection2 or 4 of this section or subdivisions (1), (2), (3) or (4) of subsection 5of this section or similar laws of other states.

    6. The juvenile court may terminate the rights of a parent to a childupon a petition filed by the juvenile officer or the division, or inadoption cases, by a prospective parent, if the court finds that thetermination is in the best interest of the child and when it appears byclear, cogent and convincing evidence that grounds exist for terminationpursuant to subsection 2, 4 or 5 of this section.

    7. When considering whether to terminate the parent-childrelationship pursuant to subsection 2 or 4 of this section or subdivision(1), (2), (3) or (4) of subsection 5 of this section, the court shallevaluate and make findings on the following factors, when appropriate andapplicable to the case:

    (1) The emotional ties to the birth parent;

    (2) The extent to which the parent has maintained regular visitationor other contact with the child;

    (3) The extent of payment by the parent for the cost of care andmaintenance of the child when financially able to do so including the timethat the child is in the custody of the division or other child-placingagency;

    (4) Whether additional services would be likely to bring aboutlasting parental adjustment enabling a return of the child to the parentwithin an ascertainable period of time;

    (5) The parent's disinterest in or lack of commitment to the child;

    (6) The conviction of the parent of a felony offense that the courtfinds is of such a nature that the child will be deprived of a stable homefor a period of years; provided, however, that incarceration in and ofitself shall not be grounds for termination of parental rights;

    (7) Deliberate acts of the parent or acts of another of which theparent knew or should have known that subjects the child to a substantialrisk of physical or mental harm.

    8. The court may attach little or no weight to infrequentvisitations, communications, or contributions. It is irrelevant in atermination proceeding that the maintenance of the parent-childrelationship may serve as an inducement for the parent's rehabilitation.

    9. In actions for adoption pursuant to chapter 453, RSMo, the courtmay hear and determine the issues raised in a petition for adoptioncontaining a prayer for termination of parental rights filed with the sameeffect as a petition permitted pursuant to subsection 2, 4, or 5 of thissection.

    (L. 1978 H.B. 972 § 2, A.L. 1982 H.B. 1171, et al., A.L. 1985 H.B. 366, et al., A.L. 1990 H.B. 1370, et al., A.L. 1997 H.B. 343, A.L. 1998 H.B. 1822 merged with S.B. 674, A.L. 2007 S.B. 84)

    CROSS REFERENCE:

    Application of law to adoption petitions filed on or after August 28, 1997, RSMo 453.012

    (2004) Provision concerning foster care custody is only a trigger for filing a termination petition and not an independent ground for termination. In re M.D.R., 124 S.W.3d 469 (Mo.banc).

    (2004) Essential part of determination to terminate parental rights is prospective analysis of future harm to child by continued relationship with parent. In re K.A.W., 133 S.W.3d 1 (Mo.banc).

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