Henry and Ashley increasingly became the subject of conversation in their extended family. After Ashley became pregnant, the couple moved in with Henry’s parents while they were finishing up their senior year in high school. Ashley became unstable, with substance abuse problems and wild mood swings that took her from doting on her child to disappearing for days. Henry had difficulty holding down a job and he showed less and less interest in the baby. Henry’s parents were distressed about the whole situation: On top of worrying about Henry and Ashley, they worried about their granddaughter, Lily, who was a bright, happy kid. They worried she wouldn’t be bright and happy for much longer.
After a heart-wrenching intervention-style conversation with Henry and Ashley, the decision was made: Henry’s parents would adopt Lily. Henry knew he was not in a position to raise a daughter, and Ashley made no objection to terminating her parental rights, wishing to move out of state without encumbrance. Seeing how easily Henry and Ashley gave up Lily confirmed for the grandparents that they were doing the right thing.
In Missouri, there is a presumption in favor of the natural parents having custody of their children. In order to rebut the presumption, it must be shown a parent is unfit, unwilling or unable to care for their child. Alternatively, the door can be open for the grandparents to adopt if:
1. The natural parents consent to the adoption;
2) The natural parents are served with notice of adoption proceedings and fail to respond; or
3) It is proven that the natural parents have abandoned the child for 6 months or more.
The story of Henry and Ashley is a fictional one. But, more and more frequently grandparents are adopting their grandchildren. The U.S. Census Bureau shows dramatic increase in the number of children being raised by someone other than a parent over the past 25 years. Some of the reasons that grandparents become parents of their children may include substance abuse, death of a parent, child abuse or neglect, abandonment, teenage pregnancy, unemployment, mental health problems, or incarceration.
In addition to adoption, grandparents also have the option of bringing a guardianship case or a third party custody case. If you are a grandparent facing a situation like the one detailed above, it is important to consult an attorney to discuss your options for protecting your grandchildren. To learn more about options for grandparents to assume primary care over a grandchild, contact us at Columbia Family Law Group.