JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Supreme Court has affirmed that a Cooper County judge properly awarded guardianship and conservatorship to relatives of a young girl in a case in which the mother was found to be unfit.
In a 6-0 decision issued March 14 and written by Justice Laura Denvir Stith, the high court ruled that the mother, identified as "A.L.S.," did not have stable living arrangements for her daughter, identified as "A.L.R."
The ruling also stated that the trial court was correct in finding that A.L.S. did not feed the child properly or bathe the child regularly and that she kept the child in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
According to court records, the girl was born in November 2014 to a young couple who lived with the child’s paternal grandfather.
After the child’s father was murdered in June 2015, the grandfather asked A.L.S. to move out of his home.
After moving out, the child and her mother lived with friends and later moved in with the child's maternal grandmother, according to court documents. The mother then applied for public housing.
The grandfather filed a petition alleging that the mother was unfit and not able to take care of the child because she was young, did not have a complete education and lacked a permanent residence, court documents state. The grandfather requested that the father's cousin and the cousin's husband be appointed
co-guardians and co-conservators.
When the petition was filed, A.L.S. was 17 and the child was 10 months old. She had sought a continuance on the guardianship proceeding, but the judge denied the request. After an evidentiary hearing, the judge appointed the father's cousin and her husband as co-guardians and co-conservators of the child, finding A.L.S. to be "unable and unfit” to care properly for her child, according to court records.
The Cooper County court had overruled A.L.S.'s subsequent motions for a new trial or to terminate guardianship and conservatorship.
On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court’s determination that A.L.S. was unfit was supported by substantial evidence and was not against the weight of the evidence. The high court also found that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in overruling A.L.S.'s motion for continuance.
The natural mother, A.L.S., was represented during arguments by Fayette attorney Frank Flaspohler. The paternal grandfather was represented by Boonville attorney Wendy L. Wooldridge.