Whether you are going through a divorce, a modification of a divorce or a child custody dispute, you should know some of the basics of Missouri family law before you meet with an attorney. Missouri family law is the area of law that covers such domestic-related issues as divorce, child support, paternity and child custody. In this article, I will cover some preliminary family Missouri family law topics. If you have additional questions, you should seek the advice of an experienced Missouri family law attorney.
1. Missouri Family Law Courts
Whether you are going through a divorce or seeking to modify one, or if you are a parent of a child and you are seeking custody or visitation rights, you or your attorney will need to file the legal paperwork with the Missouri Circuit Court in the county in which you reside or in which your spouse or child’s other parent resides. A child support case may be handled through the Missouri Department of Social Services, however they will not handle any custody issues or payment for any child related expenses other than straight child support.
2. Missouri Child Custody Dispute Factors
If you are a parent and are going through a divorce or paternity situation, the court will make its decision in accordance with what the judge feels to be the best interests of the child or children. When determining to whom to award custody and whether it is sole custody or joint custody, the judge presiding over your case will consider the following factors:
- The wishes of the parents and their proposed parenting plans
- The child’s need to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, as well as the parents’ willingness and abilities to facilitate that
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings and others who may impact the child’s best interests
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent
- The child’s adjustment to school, home and community
- Any history of abuse, as well as the mental and physical health of all parties
- The wishes of the child
- The intention of either parent to relocate
3. Factors in Deciding Missouri Child Support
According to Missouri State child support laws, judges presiding over child support cases should factor in the following when making child support decisions:
- The financial resources of the parents
- The specifics of the custody arrangement
- The reasonable work-related childcare expenses of each parent
- Any special needs of the child, whether medical or educational
4. Altering Missouri Custody and Child Support Orders
According to Missouri family law, only a judge can alter a custody order or a child support order. Even if the parents come to an agreement outside of court, it will not be considered a legal agreement. Instead, the parents should file a Motion to Modify Child Custody or a Motion to Modify Child Support. Even when filing this motion, parents will have to show that circumstances have changed since the order was originally put in place and that the new arrangement would be in the best interests of the child.
5. Mediation in Missouri Child Custody Disputes
Mediation is a confidential process in which an impartial third party facilitates communications between the two parties to promote an agreement. In St Louis County, there are court mediators that can help parents to work out their issues and then, with the assistance of the parents’ attorneys, prepare a Parenting Plan that reflects what the parents have agreed to. Your attorney can ask the judge for a referral to these mediators to assist in coming up with a Parenting Plan. The agreements made in mediation must be put into a court order and signed by the judge to make sure they will be valid and enforceable.
6. Missouri Child Support Enforcement
If a parent that is ordered to pay child support is refusing to pay, then the parent that is supposed to be receiving support can take action to enforce the child support order. If you are having problems collecting child support, you can attempt to enforce the order yourself, you can hire a Missouri family law attorney to assist you or you can contact the Family Support Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services, also known as the FSD. However, don’t expect much in the way of results from FSD, unless the other parent has gone for a very long time without paying any support at all.
7. Father’s Rights in Missouri
A Missouri family law judge is not supposed to give preference to the mother or father when making decisions regarding divorce, child custody or child support. This means that a mother’s rights are the same as a father’s rights. Missouri fathers have the same ability as mothers to petition the court for custody of a child and for child support. If you have more questions about any of these areas, or you are in need of legal representation for any Family Law matter, including divorce, paternity, custody, child support, modification, adoption or guardianship of a minor, please contact Barbara Graham at The Law Office of Barbara L Graham, or call 314-725-7600.