If you’re going through a divorce or legal separation, you probably have some idea of how you want to raise your children.
Missouri law has clear guidelines for determining child custody arrangements.
The preference is for joint legal custody where both parents make decisions about the child’s health, education and welfare. However, courts can award sole custody when evidence shows that joint custody would not be in the best interests of the child.
In legal custody arrangements, both parents share decision making responsibilities. This could include matters like the child’s education, religious affiliation, and non-emergency medical care. However, if evidence shows that a parent’s lifestyle would put the child’s welfare in jeopardy, a judge may award sole legal custody to one parent.
Joint custody is the default option for most families. Missouri courts tend to favor this arrangement unless the parents cannot cooperate or one parent has been deemed unfit.
A compassionate Missouri City family law attorney could help a client determine which type of custody arrangement works best for their situation. However, if a parent wants to change a custody order, that person must meet the state’s standards for modification. The changes must be substantial and not merely due to convenience or another ordinary life change. This is why it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney about child custody issues. They could help explain the requirements and how they might apply to your unique circumstances.
In a divorce with children, the court must decide which parent will have physical custody and how visitation and child support will work. Typically, the judge will order some form of joint custody in the best interests of the child. In some cases, the judge will award sole physical custody to one parent. This can be a good option for parents who want their children to have frequent and meaningful contact with both parents.
This type of custody arrangement allows both parents to have an equal say in important decisions that affect the child, such as education, religion, health concerns and general well-being. The parent who has sole physical custody will often also have legal custody rights.
Parents who are seeking full custody must be able to present strong evidence that this will serve the child’s best interests. Winning Full Custody in Missouri is a high bar because children do better with both engaged parents in their lives. However, if the other parent poses a risk or is unable to provide a safe home, then a judge may award sole physical custody.
In Missouri, grandparents are able to win visitation rights only under very limited circumstances. If the child is living with a married couple, they are deemed to know what is best for their grandchild and therefore grandparents cannot sue for custody or visitation rights. If the father has established paternity, he can file for visitation rights by filing a petition with the court.
In a legal custody arrangement, parents usually share decision-making authority and responsibility for children’s health, education and welfare. Joint legal custody allows each parent equal access to the child’s medical, dental and school records.
In a physical custody arrangement, parents may arrange a visitation schedule that allows each parent to spend substantial time with the child. Missouri law promotes frequent and meaningful contact between both parents unless it would pose a danger to the child. In such cases, the judge can order supervised visitation. In rare situations, the court can also decide to deny any visitation at all.
Most parents pay child support in Missouri because it’s the right thing to do for their children. Parents can get assistance through the state child support system to ensure that they’re paying their fair share. The child support amount is typically determined by a court-issued form called the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations, or Form 14. A judge will then order the parent who earns more money to provide financial support to the other parent. This can be through wage withholding (which works just like it sounds) or by a direct payment on a prepaid card. Child support obligations end when a child reaches the age of 18, is legally emancipated, or enrolls in a program of higher education.
In contested cases, the judge may deviate from the Form 14 total based on parenting time, support costs, extraordinary medical expenses, and other factors. Parents can also file a child support modification to change the current amount due to changes in their circumstances.