By Lindsay Matthews
Issue: M.M.A (Petitioner) appeals the circuit court’s decision to dismiss his petition seeking third-party custody and visitation of T.Q.L. (Child). The circuit court dismissed his petition for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Did the petitioner sufficiently allege the elements required to meet a cause of action for third-party custody?
The Petitioner and L.L. (Mother) were in a relationship in 2003 when she gave birth to a son, Child. Petitioner acted as a Child’s father by spending time together, including holidays, trips, and visiting Petitioner’s family.
When the relationship between Petitioner and Mother soured the Petitioner filed a petition for declaration of paternity, custody, and visitation. Mother advised Petitioner that he was not the Child’s biological father. Petitioner took a DNA test, which indicated he was not Child’s biological father.
The first petition was dismissed for failure to state a claim because Petitioner was not biologically related to Child and Petitioner’s claims of equitable parentage were unsupported by Missouri law.
Petitioner amended his petition alleging Mother and the unknown biological father were unfit parents. The circuit court dismissed Petitioner’s motion again because the petition failed to state a claim under the Uniform Parentage Act and Missouri law did not support claims of equitable parentage.
The Supreme Court of Missouri analyzed the sufficiency of the Petitioner’s third amended petition based on the factors outlined in §452.375.5(5)(a). This subsection states, “Third-Party custody or visitation may be awarded ‘when the court finds that each parent is unfit, unsuitable, or unable to be a custodian, or the welfare of the child requires, and it is in the bet interests of the child.’” The court found the Petitioner sufficiently alleged the Mother and the biological father are unfit custodians and third party custody would be in the Child’s best interest.
Lindsay Matthews is a law clerk working for James H. Young and Associates in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.