One of the central issues our family law attorneys care about is child custody matters. Divorce is always hard, but it becomes more emotional when children are involved. Having a lawyer to help you through your divorce and child custody proceedings in Jefferson City can make the process straightforward and more transparent for you as you navigate Missouri family law and the courts.
The family law attorneys at Kirsch & Kirsch, LLC have helped families in Jefferson City through tough legal battles and can help make your divorce and child custody process smoother. Call 573-222-0826 when you need to hire an attorney specializing in Missouri family law who can explain how it applies to your specific circumstances. A lawyer will help you understand the following types of child custody in the Missouri family law statutes:
- Legal custody
- Sole legal custody
- Joint physical custody
- Sole physical custody
- Any combination thereof
How do I get full custody of my child in Missouri?
“Full custody” is when one parent has sole legal and physical custody of the child(ren). Under Missouri divorce and family law, there is a distinction between legal custody and physical custody.
Legal and Physical Custody
Legal custody gives a parent the right to decide the important things in their child’s life, such as what school they attend, what religion they practice, when to go to a doctor, and when they need a psychologist. If your child needs academic help and you have legal custody, then you can make arrangements with a tutor without having to speak to a divorce lawyer or your ex-spouse. However, the noncustodial parent would not have this right after the divorce. On the other hand, physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with.
Joint and Sole Custody
Both legal and physical custody can be broken down into joint legal and physical custody or sole legal and physical custody.
Joint legal custody means that both parents have the authority to make decisions relating to the child’s education, health, and welfare. Parents will also be able to confer with each other after the divorce regarding their decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority. Joint physical custody means that the child resides with each parent for certain periods, though not necessarily equal periods of time. Joint physical custody ensures that the child has frequent, continual, and meaningful contact with both parents.
Under Missouri family law, sole legal custody means that one parent has decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority when it concerns the health, education and welfare of the child(ren). Sole physical custody means that the child resides with one of the parents. Missouri has strict child relocation laws, so even if you have sole custody of your child or children, you cannot move out of state or even from your current address within Jefferson City without the court’s permission.
In order to get full custody of your child in Missouri – that is, to obtain sole legal and physical custody – you’ll have to prove that the other parent is unfit.
How is child custody determined?
In order to achieve the best interests for the child under the state’s family law, the court considers eight factors when making a custody determination:
- The wishes of each parent as to who will have custody
- The need for the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, and both parents’ ability to foster that relationship
- The relationship and interactions that the child has with the parents, siblings, and others the child will be around, and how those interactions affect the child’s best interests
- Which of the two parents will allow the child to have meaningful and consistent contact with the other parent
- If the child will need to adjust to a new school, community, or home
- If either parent has a history of substance abuse or mental or physical health concerns
- Which parent the child wants to be with after the divorce is finalized
- Whether either parent has the intention to relocate from Jefferson City
Determining child custody is more than just the parents’ relationship with the child; it’s about the cooperation between parents and the relationship between the child and the community they will be a part of. Ultimately, it is about the best interest of the child while respecting the fundamental right to parent.
It’s important to note that, in accordance with Missouri Revised Statutes §452.375, the law in Jefferson City does not give custody preference to either parent on the basis of their sex, financial status, age, or the age and sex of the child.
The law does not specify what age a child must be in order for the court to consider their wishes, but generally, the preferences of older children are given more weight than those of younger children. Judges make these determinations on a case-by-case basis since some children are more mature than their years.
What makes a parent unfit in court?
When discussing a parent being unfit according to family law in Jefferson City, in general, we are not talking about differences in opinion and how to parent, such as whether to allow your kids to eat fast food or let them play video games. The types of concerns the court looks out for are mainly related to safety.
The child’s well-being and best interests are the standard that the court uses to determine custody. Actions, behaviors, and events in the past are relevant to a child custody case. For example, whether either or both parents have ever been investigated by the Department of Social Services (Children’s Division) in the past. Examples of things that the court will look for to determine if a parent is fit for custody include:
- Criminal acts committed by one or both parents
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Reports or calls of suspected child abuse or child endangerment
- Domestic violence
It is critical to speak to a family law attorney in Jefferson City as soon as possible because these charges can be very serious. Any of these things can make you lose your parental rights and custody of your children.
What questions should I ask a custody lawyer?
Kirsch & Kirsch, LLC is here to help parents going through a divorce in Jefferson City and assist in understanding how Missouri family law applies to them and their circumstances when fighting for child custody. We often hear many similar questions from parents who are concerned about the welfare of their children. In addition to any questions you may have, here are some relevant questions to ask a family law attorney in Jefferson City about your divorce or child custody hearings:
- What happens if the other parent and I can’t agree on a custody arrangement for our children?
- Can a parent cut or reduce the other parent’s child visitation rights because they haven’t paid child support?
- If both parents share custody during and after the divorce finalizes, then who pays child support?
- Is my child able to decide who they want to stay with?
- When will I be able to modify the terms of a custody order after my divorce?
- What if my divorce hasn’t been filed and the other parent tries to move to another state with the child?
- If I get an out-of-state job and accepting it will benefit my child, then can I expedite the process of getting permission to move before the job offer elapses?
- Will child support and child custody be included in the terms of the separation agreement in the divorce decree?
Call Now To Speak To A Respected Family Law Attorney
At Kirsch & Kirsch, we understand that divorce is hard on children and can create new problems and lifelong resentments. That is why our focus when settling custody disputes is to reach an agreeable resolution that protects your rights. There is a lot at stake for your family, which is why we work closely with each of our clients to help them get the child custody determinations that are right for them, their children, and their future.
Kirsch & Kirsch, LLC in Jefferson City will advocate for you at every step of this difficult process.