Consent Not Required: Missouri's Adoption Laws for Incapacitated Adults

By Collins, Kelly | Missouri Law Review, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

Consent Not Required: Missouri's Adoption Laws for Incapacitated Adults


Collins, Kelly, Missouri Law Review


DeBrodie v. Martin, 400 S.W.3d 881 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013).

I. INTRODUCTION

In 2013, approximately 640,000 children spent time in foster care. (1) Mentally incapacitated children in foster care are considered "hard to place" and are often placed in an institutional setting. (2) When families petition for the adoption of these children, the court has to have permission from certain parties to the adoption, one of whom is the adoptee. (3) The adoptee's consent to the adoption is generally easily obtained, and courts, upon deciding the adoption is in the child's best interests, will grant the adoption without issue. (4)

But what if the adoptee has been found to be legally incapable of giving consent? Does that mean that an incompetent adoptee cannot be adopted? That is the issue in a recent case from the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District: DeBrodie v. Martin. The court held that mentally incapacitated adults are not required to give consent to their adoption. (5) Since consent is not a necessary prerequisite, the circuit court can evaluate the fitness and propriety of the petitioning adoptive parents and determine whether the adoption is in the child's best interests. (6)

This Note discusses Missouri's adoption statutes, specifically adult adoptions and adoptions of mentally incapacitated adults, then explains the best interests of the child determination that courts perform when granting (or denying) a petition for adoption. Part II gives a brief background of the facts and circumstances surrounding DeBrodie v. Martin, (7) Part III discusses the history of Missouri's adoption statutes, focusing on adult adoptions, and explains the best interests of the child analysis in custody proceedings. (8) Part IV delves into the initial Missouri Court of Appeals' decision. (9) Finally, Part V comments on the outcome upon remand and re-appeal of the case, and why both the circuit court and appellate court ultimately reached the incorrect decision and deprived DeBrodie of the chance to be a member of a loving, adopted family. (10)

II. FACTS AND HOLDING

In August 2011, Bryan and Mary Martin (hereinafter "the Martins") filed a petition to adopt twenty-five-year-old Carl Lee DeBrodie (hereinafter "DeBrodie"). (11) DeBrodie was an incapacitated and disabled adult, and Mary Martin was formerly his legal guardian. (12) The Martins filed their petition in the Circuit Court of Cole County, Juvenile Division. (13)

In September 1999, Mary Martin had been appointed by the Circuit Court of Cole County to be the legal guardian of DeBrodie. (14) DeBrodie was thirteen years old at the time and was considered to be a special needs child. (15) In the guardianship judgment, the Cole County Circuit Court found that DeBrodie's biological mother and biological father were "unable or unfit to assume the duties of guardianship." (16) The court determined that DeBrodie's biological mother was "severely, intellectually, psychologically, socially and occupationally impaired." (17) In the guardianship judgment, the court found that there were sufficient grounds to terminate DeBrodie's mother's parental rights, but the court did not terminate her parental rights. (18) The court determined that termination of parental rights was "not ... in the child[]'s best interest." (19)

Until DeBrodie was eighteen years old, (20) Mary Martin continued to serve as his legal guardian. (21) After DeBrodie turned eighteen, the Callaway County Circuit Court adjudged him as an incapacitated and disabled adult. (22) With this status, DeBrodie became a ward of the Public Administrator of Callaway County, Karen Digh Allen. (23) Ms. Allen (hereinafter the "Legal Guardian") was appointed by the court to be DeBrodie's legal guardian and conservator. (24) Beginning in 2010, and at the time of both proceedings detailed in this Note, DeBrodie lived at Second Chance, an institutionalized group home. (25)

In the Martins' 2011 adoption petition, they alleged that after they were no longer DeBrodie's guardians they continued to provide DeBrodie with care and support. …

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