Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Marion County. Honorable John J. Jackson.
For Appellant and Minor: Stephen Ray Porter, Hannibal, MO.
Jessica Lynn Dowson, Respondent Acting Pro se, Palmyra, MO.
Sherri B. Sullivan, P.J. Mary K. Hoff, J., and Philip M. Hess, J., concur.
Sherri B. Sullivan, P.J.
J.R.D., Jr. (Appellant) appeals from the trial court's judgment denying his petition for letters of guardianship over the minor J.D.D. (Child) and granting J.L.D.'s (Mother) petition for habeas corpus. We reverse.
Factual and Procedural Background
Appellant and Mother were divorced in 2007 and have a son together. Appellant has had custody of the parties' son since their divorce. On January 3, 2011, Mother gave birth to her second boy, Child, who is the subject of these proceedings. Although no paternity test has been performed, Child's biological father is presumed to be E.P., who has never been involved in Child's life and was given notice but failed to appear for these proceedings and is thus in default.
Prior to Child's birth, Mother approached Appellant about financing an abortion of Child or about Appellant and his partner being Child's parents. Appellant declined to finance an abortion but did agree to take and raise Child once he was born. Mother listed Appellant's name on Child's birth certificate as the father. On January 5, 2011, Mother executed a hospital release form titled " Release of Infant to Other Than Parent" to allow Appellant to take Child home and care for him. The hospital release provided that Mother understood she was responsible for Child's health care needs until an order of termination of parental rights or a decree of transfer of custody and adoption was received by Hannibal Regional Hospital.
Appellant took Child home with him and cared for Child along with the parties' son. Around November 2011, when Child was ten months old, his stomach was temporarily paralyzed due to a virus, a medical condition called gastroparesis. Appellant took Child to the hospital where he was admitted and administered a feeding tube and an intravenous line for nutrition and hydration. After a two-month hospital stay, Appellant took Child back and forth to the hospital for check-ups. Child's treatment for and recovery from this medical condition spanned three months, and although Appellant informed Mother of Child's medical problems and invited her to come to the hospital to visit and see Child, Mother never went to the hospital to see or visit Child. Nor did Mother assume any of the responsibility for Child's health care needs or costs during this time or any other. For the next year and a half, Appellant took care of Child. During this time, Mother never visited Child or provided any support for Child.
On July 1, 2013, for the first time since Child's birth, Mother suddenly arrived at Appellant's residence accompanied by Missouri State Highway Patrol officers demanding physical custody of Child. Appellant showed the officers Child's birth certificate with his name on it, and the officers refused to physically take custody of Child from Appellant and give him to Mother. Between January 5, 2011 and July 1, 2013, Mother never attempted to obtain physical custody of or visitation with Child.
On July 22, 2013, Mother filed a Petition For Writ Of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of Marion County, Case Number 13MM-CV00186, alleging Appellant had the unlawful physical custody of Child and seeking to have the ...