St. Louis Child Custody Attorneys
Child Custody and Placement
Almost everyone wants what's best for the children in a divorce, and the law is no exception. The state of Missouri is legally required to decide child custody matters based on the best interests of the children. Judges are not permitted to grant sole custody based only on one parent's gender, income, location or any other factor. Both parents are likely to get at least some custody unless one parent has committed domestic violence or abuse, has a substance abuse problem or is in prison. Parents with these problems may be granted supervised visitation.
Factors the court must consider, by law, include:
- The wishes of the parents and any written parenting plan they've agreed on.
- The wishes of the children, if they're old enough to decide.
- The ability and willingness of each parent to be a good parent, and the children's need for a meaningful relationship with both.
- The children's relationship with siblings or other people who can affect their best interests.
- Which parent is most likely to allow the other to have a meaningful relationship with the children.
- The children's adjustment to a home, school and community.
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved.
- Whether either parent plans to move. (Parents cannot by law leave Missouri before a divorce is final.)
There are two different and coexisting types of child custody:
- Physical custody is exactly what it sounds like -- who has the children at any given time. When children are in your physical custody, you're responsible for feeding, sheltering and supervising them.
- Legal custody is the legal responsibility and right to make decisions for the child. Legal custody gives a parent access to the child's grades, medical records and other information, and decision-making power in those areas.
In joint physical custody, both parents have at least some time with the children, though it doesn't necessarily have to be equal time. Joint legal custody means both parents have equal access to the child's information and must make legal decisions together. Although it's rare for one parent to be granted sole physical custody, it's even rarer for only one parent to be given sole legal custody. However, if a court does grant sole legal custody to one parent, it's very difficult for the other parent to reverse. For that reason, it's essential to make sure you're well-represented from the start of your child custody case.
At the beginning of a divorce, spouses who can agree on custody will draw up a parenting plan to submit to the court. This parenting plan should outline how much time the parties will spend with the children and how they'll share decision-making power, among other things. It will likely be granted unless the court feels the plan isn't in the children's best interests. An experienced Missouri family law attorney like Tonya D. Page can give parents guidance about what's reasonable and what's likely to win the court's approval.
She may also be able to help parents overcome initial disagreements on this plan and avoid an expensive court battle.
When spouses truly can't agree on a parenting plan, they'll hire a judge or a private mediator to help draw it up. Having an experienced divorce lawyer is essential in these cases, because your access to your children depends on how well you present yourself in court or mediation.
Call Page Law to Discuss Your Child Custody Issue
Child custody is the crucial area of disagreement in many divorces, and often the most contentious. Children deserve the best parenting and financial support the law can give them; they should never be subjected to a long, ugly, avoidable custody battle. If you need help and information in a child custody matter, call Page Law. Call Tonya D. Page today for a free initial evaluation of your case. She can help you draw up a viable parenting plan, resolve key disagreements with a spouse and put your best foot forward in a court case or mediation.