Jefferson City Child Custody Lawyer
Helping Central Missouri Families Do What Is Right By Their Children
Child custody is often the most contentious issue in a Missouri divorce case. Even when there may be broad agreement on other subjects, neither parent may be willing to yield when it comes to questions of custody and visitation rights. Because of the raw emotions involved, it is often necessary for a judge to step in and decide what is best for the child.
At Call & Gentry Law Group, LLC, our Jefferson City child custody lawyers can advise and represent you during this difficult time. We are experienced Missouri family law attorneys who know how to negotiate a resolution with the other parent. And if a settlement proves to be impossible under the circumstances, we are prepared to present your case to a judge. In the end, we know you want to do what is right by your children and your family, and we will make every effort to see that you are heard.
How Do Jefferson City, Missouri, Courts Decide Child Custody Disputes?
No one desires to engage in legal battles over child custody. The ideal scenario is for both parties to collaborate and reach an agreement, creating a “parenting plan” that delineates custody and visitation responsibilities. Nonetheless, certain situations arise where this agreement is unattainable. In such cases, when the decision falls to the court, what will be the judge’s focus?
Missouri law makes it clear that the “best interests of the child” are paramount in any custody decision. Put another way, it is not about what the parents may want; it is what custody and visitation arrangements will best meet the child’s circumstances.
Obviously, there is no single test that can easily determine a child’s best interests. A judge will therefore look at a number of factors in making their decision. No single factor is necessarily controlling. It is about looking at the whole picture with respect to a child’s welfare. But some of the specific factors the court will examine include:
- the wishes of the parents;
- the wishes of the child;
- the child’s need for a meaningful relationship with both of their parents;
- each parent’s willingness and ability to have a meaningful relationship with the child;
- the relationship between the child and their parents, siblings, and other family members;
- the child’s adjustment to their current home, school, and community;
- the mental and physical health of the both the child and the parents; and
- whether either parent would relocate with the child if granted custody.
This list isn’t exhaustive, and a Missouri judge must weigh “all relevant factors” in rendering a child custody determination. But the judge must, however, make any findings regarding such factors in writing.
Joint Legal Custody vs Other Types of Custody Arrangements
There are several different types of custody arrangements that the parents can agree to or that the judge may impose. Here are some common examples:
- Joint Physical Custody – the child spends significant amounts of time living with each parent. But that does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split.
- Joint Legal Custody – both parents exercise significant decision-making authority for the child. For instance, the parents would need to agree on where to send the child to school. A court may grant one parent sole physical custody even when both parents share joint legal custody.
- Third-Party Custody – Legal decision made that it is in the child’s best interest for someone other than the parents be awarded custody.
- Sole legal custody – Arrangement in which one parent is granted exclusive decision-making authority and responsibility for important matters concerning a child’s upbringing and well-being.
- Sole physical custody- Meaning the child lives predominantly with that parent. The other parent may have visitation rights or scheduled visitation periods.
How Does Domestic Abuse Affect a Child Custody Dispute in Jefferson City, Missouri?
While most child custody disputes are simply a disagreement between well-meaning parents over what is best for their children, there are situations where abuse or criminal behavior may be an issue. Some common examples of this include:
- Child Abuse. Under Missouri law, a court cannot award custody to a parent if they, or someone living with them, has been convicted of certain crimes of abuse involving children. This includes cases where the victim was not the child who is the subject of the custody dispute.
- Sexual Offenses. A judge can also deny a parent custody or visitation rights if they have been convicted of certain sexually based offenses. And even if the parent is allowed visitation rights with their child, it may need to be supervised.
- Emotional Abuse. Unlike physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse is often harder to document and prove in court. But a judge can still take evidence of a parent’s emotional abuse of a child into account when determining custody issues.
Our Law Firm Helps in Modifying Existing Child Custody Orders
Child custody arrangements, once established by a court order, aren’t irreversible. Life’s situations can shift, prompting a need for adjustments in existing agreements. If you encounter a situation requiring modifications, our child custody lawyers are ready to provide guidance. Whether it’s a change in employment, relocation, or any other significant change, our legal team can guide you through the process of seeking a modification while keeping the child’s best interests at the forefront.
When Can a Missouri Judge Modify a Child Custody Order?
Once a Missouri court approves a custody order or parenting plan, it is legally binding on both parents. While it is okay for the parents to make some minor changes here and there–swapping a weekend for visitation, for instance–any substantial modifications need to be approved by the court. As with the initial determination of custody, it is best if the parents can agree to such modifications ahead of time and present the judge with a joint stipulation. But if the parents disagree as to the need for a modification, the court must hold a hearing.
As with all matters regarding child custody, a court will look at whether a proposed modification is in the best interests of the child. In addition, the judge will not grant a modification unless there are facts that were either unknown to the court at the time of the original determination or there has been a significant change in the circumstances of either the parents or the child.
Speak with a Jefferson City, Missouri, Child Custody Lawyer Today
When you partner with our law office in Jefferson City, MO, you’re gaining more than just legal representation. You’re gaining a compassionate team that genuinely cares about your family’s well-being. Our child custody lawyers are committed to advocating for your rights, ensuring fair agreements, and safeguarding the child’s future.
Whether you’re a parent seeking custody, negotiating child support, or looking to modify an existing child custody order, our attorneys provide comprehensive representation that covers every angle of family law. With our guidance, you can navigate the complexities of child custody cases with confidence, knowing that you have a dedicated attorney by your side. Contact Call & Gentry Law Group, LLC, today at (573) 644-6090 to schedule an initial consultation.
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