Juvenile Law

Editor:
Shawn McCarver

Failure to strictly comply with § 211.455.3, RSMo, by admitting the social study and investigation into evidence in a termination of parental rights case when it was not provided to the parties at least 15 days prior to trial constitutes prejudicial error, requiring reversal and remand for new trial. In Interest of Z.M., No. 98746 (Mo. App. E.D., February 26, 2013).

After three years of unsuccessful reunification efforts, the Children’s Division filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of father. After the filing of the petition, the trial court ordered the social study and investigation required by § 211.455, RSMo. On the day of the trial, and over father’s objection, the trial court admitted the social study and investigation into evidence despite the fact that father did not receive the social study and investigation at least 15 days prior to trial as required by § 211.455.3, RSMo. In fact, the day of trial was father’s first opportunity to review the report. Failure to strictly comply with § 211.455, RSMo, constitutes prejudicial error.

Held: Reversed and remanded for new trial.