Child Custody Attorney in Cape Girardeau

Child custody presents one of the most challenging issues in any divorce situation.

Our Cape Girardeau child custody lawyer has seen these issues come up in countless divorce cases. It’s always best if parents can work together to find child custody arrangements that suit both parties and the best interests of the child. When they can’t, the result can be a contentious battle that hurts everyone, especially children who are caught in the middle.

Missouri child custody laws are complicated, and decisions you make now can affect your children’s lives forever. If you are a divorcing parent having child custody issues, it makes sense to have an experienced child custody attorney on your side. The Cape Girardeau child custody, family law, and divorce lawyers at the Birk Law Firm are available to fight for your rights and those of your children.  

Your children are too important to go it alone. We offer a free consultation to discuss your individual custody circumstances and show you how we can help. Call our child custody lawyer today at 573-332-8585 to get started.

Child Custody Attorney in Cape Girardeau Explains Missouri Custody Arrangements

Divorcing parents with minor children need to understand the state’s custody laws. Missouri courts use several factors to determine whether one or both partners get custody. The major considerations for the courts are:

  • Finding the arrangement that is in the best interests of the child
  • Not showing bias or giving preferential treatment to either parent based on gender, financial status, age, or the sex of the child
  • Encouraging continuous contact between the child and both parents

Missouri statute 452.375 defines custody situations as follows:

  • “Custody” — means joint legal custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole physical custody. There could also be a combination of these.
  • “Joint legal custody” — The parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child. Parents should confer with one another when it comes to decisions, responsibilities, and authority.
  • “Joint physical custody” — Each parent gets significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time during which a child resides with or is under their care and supervision. This division of time should assure the child gets frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents.
  • “Third-party custody” means a third party is designated as a legal and physical custodian of the child.

The custody situation is further complicated because the courts may divide these types of custody in various ways. Courts consider five types of custody that include:

  • Joint physical and legal custody to both parents
  • Joint physical custody to both parents and sole legal custody to one
  • Joint legal custody to both parents and sole physical custody to one
  • Sole custody (both legal and physical) to one parent or the other
  • Custody or visitation by third parties, such as grandparents.

Remember, in talking about “custody,” there are two types — physical and legal:

  • Physical custody determines how much time the child lives with the parent during the year.  This time does not have to be equal to be considered joint, but should provide both parents considerable time with the child.
  • Legal custody has to do with decision-making rights, which include the areas of education, religious beliefs, health issues, and overall welfare of the child.

Leave the knowledge of child custody laws to us so that you can look after the needs of your children as they go through the process of a divorce with you. Our experienced child custody attorney in Cape Girardeau not only has the skill and knowledge of Missouri law that you need, but the compassion you can depend on in this stressful time.

Cape Girardeau Child Custody Lawyer Explains Best Interests of the Child

Like the law of other states, Missouri law Section 452.375(4) states that child custody arrangements must be in “the best interests of the child.” This term is not specifically defined, so the courts can use discretion when deciding custody issues. However, there are factors that courts consider to determine whether a custody plan meets the “best interests” standard.

Some factors include:

  • Each parent’s wishes. Parents must submit a proposed parenting plan that lays out how they wish to divide time with their child. This includes who will get the child for holidays, vacations, and important events. The plan should also provide specific information about times and places that the parents will meet to exchange the child, how the child will be transported, an emergency plan if an exchange cannot be made, and times when the child can talk to the other parent on the phone.
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is old enough and mature enough – often age 12 and up
  • The child’s need for frequent and meaningful contact and relationships with both parents
  • Each parent’s willingness to be responsible for the child’s needs and to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The child’s relationship with parents, siblings and other family members
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
  • Any history of abuse or neglect
  • The mental and physical health of all parties
  • Any plans to relocate with the child.

Our Cape Girardeau child custody lawyers will explain all these factors to you and help you achieve the arrangement you want within the framework of the best interests of the child. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can get to work. Call now at 573-332-8585 for your free consultation.

Child Custody Lawyers Help with Specific Issues

There are many individual problems and situations that come up when dealing with custody cases, and our attorneys will work with you to address all your concerns. Some of the major issues divorcing parents may deal with include:

Child Support

Child support can be a source of conflict if parents cannot agree on what is fair. In Missouri, judges consider the following when making child support decisions:

  • The financial needs and resources of the child and of both parents
  • The standard of living the child would have had if the parents had not divorced
  • The physical and emotional needs and condition of the child
  • The specifics of the custody arrangement
  • The reasonable work-related childcare expenses of each parent.

Only a judge can alter a custody order or a child support order. Parents can come to an agreement on their own, but it will not be legally enforceable. Parents who want to modify a child support order should file a motion to modify child support or a motion to modify child custody and support to have this done legally. To have a support order changed, you will have to show a change in circumstances since the order was originally put in place. You also need to show that the change would be in the best interests of the child.

If a parent who does not have physical custody is refusing to pay child support, the other parent can go to court to enforce the child support order. Having an experienced child custody lawyer at your side will help protect your interests and the best interest of your child.

Sole Custody of a Child

Missouri courts believe it is in the best interests of the child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. If there is a reason why one parent should not have legal or physical custody, you would have to apply for sole custody of the child, and show why having sole custody is in the child’s best interest.  

To win sole custody, your attorney would need to:

  • Provide reasons and documentation to show that the other parent is a potential threat to or is not capable of caring for the child.
  • Show how you can support the child financially, physically and emotionally without the other parent.

Fathers’ Rights in Child Custody Cases

Missouri courts are supposed to treat both parents equally when making decisions regarding divorce, child custody or child support. Missouri fathers have the same rights and the same ability as mothers to petition the court for custody and for child support.

If the parents were not married when the child was born, the courts cannot enforce custody until a paternity judgment has established the man as the legal father of the child after a paternity test. Once a paternity judgment is granted, the father has equal rights to access and decision-making concerning the child.

How Relocation Affects Child Custody Arrangements

Parents who wish to relocate with the child for more than 90 days need to get court approval and follow a complicated process. They must:

  • Provide specific details and information regarding the relocation to the other co-parent through a written letter sent by certified mail or handed to the co-parent at least 60 days before the planned move.
  • Present a case to a judge with proof as to how relocation is in the best interest of the child.

If the non-relocating parent agrees to the move, the parents have to submit to the court the terms of their agreement with the new custody and visitation schedule.

If the non-relocating parent doesn’t agree with the move, that parent has 30 days to file a motion in court asking a judge to block the move and explaining why. The relocating parent then has 14 days to file a counter-affidavit explaining why the move should be approved and providing a new custody and visitation plan.

If relocation is an issue presenting itself in your custody arrangement, contact us. Our child custody lawyer will ensure that the terms of the relocation take your and your child’s needs into account. We will also ensure that you have full understanding of the rules regarding relocation of a parent and child.

Call Our Child Custody Lawyers in Missouri For Help

Child custody issues are complex, emotional, and vital to a child’s well-being, so it makes sense to have an experienced child custody lawyer on your side. The skilled Cape Girardeau, MO, child custody attorneys at the Birk Law Firm understand what you are going through and can provide support and guidance throughout all legal processes.

Call us today at 573-332-8585 for a free initial consultation to discuss your individual issues and concerns.
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