Missouri appeals court upholds ruling in Guatemala adoption case

10/09/2013 10:50 AM

10/09/2013 10:50 AM

The Missouri Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that allowed a southwest Missouri couple to adopt a boy over the objections of his biological mother from Guatemala, whose parental rights were terminated after she was arrested in an immigration raid at a poultry processing plant.

In a unanimous decision handed down Monday, the court found in favor of the adoptive parents, Seth and Melinda Moser of Carthage, who have raised the 6-year-old child since he was a year old, The Joplin Globe reported.

The boy's biological mother, Encarnacion Romero, had challenged a July 2012 decision that found she had abandoned and neglected the child after she was arrested on immigration violations when the child was 11 months old.

Many of Bail Romero's supporters, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, have contended that her parental rights were severed because she was in the country illegally.

One of several attorneys working for Romero, Bill Fleischaker, said attorneys have not made a decision on whether to appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.

"But given the distance we've come, it would be unlikely that we would not take steps to get further review at a higher level," he said.

The Mosers' attorney, Joe Hensley, said the decision should help the couple "breathe a little better," although Romero still has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The child started living with the Mosers in October 2007, and they adopted him after a Jasper County court judge terminated Romero's parental rights in 2008. That judge ruled the mother had not tried to maintain contact or provide for the child while in prison.

Romero's lawyers contended that the adoption process was flawed and that Romero was not given sufficient legal representation before losing custody of her son, who is a U.S. citizen.

In an earlier opinion, the appeals panel overturned that Jasper County decision, saying the lower court lacked authority to grant the adoption. The state Supreme Court then ruled in January 2011 that state adoption laws were not followed and ordered a new trial regarding Romero's parental rights.

Then, in 2012, Greene County Juvenile Court Judge David Jones again severed Romero's parental rights and allowed the Mosers to adopt the child for a second time. It was that finding that the appeals court upheld on Monday.

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