Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
IN THE INTEREST OF: K.S., A minor child under seventeen years of age,
S.J., Respondent-Appellant. GREENE COUNTY JUVENILE OFFICE, Petitioner-Respondent,
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY Honorable Becky J.W.
Borthwick, Associate Circuit Judge
Rahmeyer, C.J./P.J., Bates, J., and Francis, J.
(Mother) appeals from the termination of her parental rights
and presents six points. Because Mother's first point is
dispositive, we do not address the other five. Mother contends
there is no proof in the record that she was notified, as
required by § 211.462, of her right to request the
appointment of counsel to represent her in the termination of
parental rights (TPR) proceeding. This point has merit and
requires us to reverse the TPR judgment and remand for
petition to terminate Mother's parental rights was filed
on October 6, 2016. After the original summons for Mother was
returned non est, alias summons was issued. Mother
was personally served on January 3, 2017. The docket entry
documenting service on Mother contained only the cryptic
statement: "Notice of Rights NMO; [Mother]/CG[.]"
The legal file does not contain a copy of the summons served
on Mother. The only service document in the file is a copy of
the return, which simply provides the facts of how and when
service on Mother was accomplished. The record also does not
contain any description of the "rights" of which
Mother was purportedly given notice.
hearing was held on February 21, 2017. Notice of that hearing
date had been served on Mother by mail at prior addresses on
Harrison and Douglas streets in Springfield. Mother was not
represented by counsel and did not personally appear at the
TPR hearing. Case manager Jo Lowery testified on behalf of
the juvenile office. She had last seen Mother on January 27,
2017. Lowery did not know where Mother was residing as of the
time of trial.
February 22, 2017, the trial court entered a judgment
terminating Mother's parental rights. The judgment stated
that "[t]he mother did not request or seek counsel in
2, 2017, the trial court approved Mother's application
for legal assistance and appointed counsel for her. A notice
of appeal was filed on May 19, 2017. Counsel obtained a
special order from this Court allowing the late filing of the
notice of appeal in this action.
resolution of this appeal is controlled by the requirements
of § 211.462. In relevant part, this statute states:
The parent or guardian of the person of the child shall
be notified of the right to have counsel, and if they
request counsel and are financially unable to employ counsel,
counsel shall be appointed by the court. Notice of this
provision shall be contained in the summons. When the
parent is a minor or incompetent the court shall appoint a
guardian ad litem to represent such parent.
§ 211.462.2 (emphasis added). This statute performs an
essential role in protecting the due process rights of a
parent threatened with termination of his or her parental
rights. Therefore, we strictly apply the terms of §
211.462.2. In re D.P.P., 353 S.W.3d 697, 700 (Mo.
App. 2011); In re J.S.W., 295 S.W.3d 877, 880 (Mo.
App. 2009). If an indigent parent receives the required
notice, appointment of counsel is required if requested.
In re J.R., 347 S.W.3d 641, 645 (Mo. App.
contends there is no proof in the record that she received
the notice required by § 211.462.2 of her right to
request the appointment of counsel in the TPR proceeding. We
agree. By law, that notice is required to be
contained in the summons. Cf. In re Adoption of
C.M.B.R., 332 S.W.3d 793, 810 (Mo. banc 2011)
(specifically noting that the record there showed the summons
gave the mother the required statutory notice, but she failed
to request counsel). The legal file contains no copy of the
summons served upon Mother. The trial court's cryptic
docket entry, which was not part of the summons in any event,
sheds no light on whether Mother received the statutory
notice about appointment of counsel. Because there is no
proof in the record before us that Mother received the
statutory notice to which she was entitled, Point 1 is
judgment is reversed, and the cause is remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Steffen Rahmeyer, P.J.
concur and write separately to note the (hopefully) unique
and troubling procedural posture of this case to assist
juvenile courts in resolving recurrent and significant
following dates are significant:
May 27, 2016 (A&N): K.S. was taken into foster care at
her birth (DOB 05/15/2016) due to testing positive for
methamphetamine. This began the A&N proceeding,
16GK-JU00335, against Mother.
May 31, 2016 (A&N): Juvenile Office filed an abuse and
neglect petition. June 1, 2016 (A&N): Attorney Rina Edge,
from Legal Aid, ...