When it comes to parental rights, unmarried parents in Missouri should be treated the same way as married parents. This is why a Springfield representative has introduced House Bill 566 in order to expedite those child custody cases involving unmarried fathers.
Under this proposed bill, if a child custody issue arose, and a paternity judgment has already established who the biological father of the child is, these cases could be handled just as promptly as those involving parents who were once married. This would not only protect the rights of a father, but is also a benefit to the child involved.
When looking at the type of custody disputes that arise, these expedited cases would involve when one parent tries to take a child out of the state without permission, or visitation is not happening within the already planned and approved times. This could go a long way in cases where a mother is trying to prevent a father from seeing his child.
Currently, cases involving child custody disputes are expedited when two parents were married. However, by including unmarried parents, this would fall in-line with the Missouri Supreme Court ruling that unmarried parents must be treated the same as married parents.
In this 2007 ruling, the Missouri Supreme Court cited sections of the state's constitution which guarantees equal rights to biological fathers, regardless of whether or not the parents were ever married.
For fathers in Missouri, especially in cases where a mother is trying to break a custody agreement, if this bill is passed, the hope is that custody disputes would be solved in a more timely matter while preserving the rights of both parents.
At this point, the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but a hearing is yet to be scheduled.
Source: Springfield News-Leader, "Bill proposes change in handling custody hearings," Jonathan Shorman, Feb. 21, 2013