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  • St. Louis Child Custody Lawyer

    Child custody matters are extremely sensitive and must be handled with great care. Missouri courts and all parties involved should ensure that the resultant custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child or children.

    Navigating through a complex child custody case on your own is nearly impossible, and you must have support from the start of your case. By working with a seasoned St. Louis child custody attorney, you can protect your child’s well-being and your parental rights under Missouri law.

    How Is Child Custody Determined in St. Louis, MO?

    Missouri courts use a variety of factors to determine what custody arrangement might work best for the child. Ultimately, all arrangements are designed to guarantee that the child is safe from harm in a nurturing environment that maintains a healthy relationship with both parents.

    To achieve this, the courts consider a myriad of factors, including:

    • the child’s age and any possible disabilities
    • the parents’ ages and any possible disabilities
    • the employment and financial status of each parent
    • the living arrangements of each parent
    • the wishes of the child, if they are old enough to voice a preference
    • who the child is currently staying with
    • what living arrangements support the child’s educational and social life
    • each parent’s willingness to foster a positive relationship with the other parent
    • any history of one parent restricting access to the child or children
    • any history of domestic violence

    Coming to a verdict in a child custody case is no small feat. Careful consideration is a must, and courts understand their enormous responsibility when deciding where and with whom a child will live. However, many courts do not have the full picture. They can only make a determination based on the facts available.

    It is your job as a parent to gather important evidence like pay stubs, photos, notes, and other documentation that best illustrates your case. Your attorney can help you gather this information.

    Five Types of Child Custody Arrangements in Missouri

    There are five different types of custody arrangements that the state of Missouri recognizes, including:

    Joint Legal and Physical Custody for Both Parents

    Both parents share equal physical custody of the child, with equal say in the child’s medical care, education, etc.

    Joint Physical Custody to Both Parents, With Sole Legal Custody to One Parent:

    Both parents share time with the child equally, but one parent can make important decisions about the child’s education, medical care, etc.

    Joint Legal Custody to Both Parents, With Sole Physical Custody to One Parent

    Both parents have an equal say in legal matters; however, one parent has sole custody.

    Sole Physical and Legal Custody to One Parent

    One parent has the right to keep the child and make important decisions regarding the child’s care. The court recognizes that the other parent is not fit to make these decisions or have physical rights to the child; however, they may still award visitation in some form.

    Custody and/or Visitation to Third Parties

    In some situations, the court will find both parents unfit for legal and physical custody and will award custody to a third party, such as a grandparent. In other cases, grandparents may be granted visitation to prevent one or both parents from keeping the child from the grandparent.

    Each custody situation is unique and must be carefully considered before a final verdict is made. When you work with an experienced child custody lawyer in Missouri, you can ensure that your attorney is advocating for your child’s best interests.

    How our child custody attorneys in St. Louis can help you

    Some decisions surrounding a divorce can be quick and painless. Decisions like who will keep the car or which parent will stay in the family home, in most cases, can be determined without the court or a mediator. With family law matters, things can become significantly more complex.

    As family law attorneys, contested topics such as how you’ll share time with your children and whether you both agree on the best interests of your child always make the divorce process much harder for everyone involved.

    Child custody is an aspect of the dissolution of marriage process that we, as a divorce and family law firm, know requires great thought because it’s a decision that could have a lasting impact on your child for many years to come. With so much at stake in your child custody agreement, you may want to hire a lawyer to help draft it and advise you throughout the process. A child custody lawyer can also provide helpful advice if you find yourself in a contentious situation with your spouse or need to take legal action regarding custody issues.

    Important answers to common child custody questions

    While there is never really a “winner” in child custody cases, knowing how to win a child custody case is the best way to get the results you want.

    How is custody decided in Missouri?

    Like most states, Missouri’s family courts oftentimes will try to award custody to both parents whenever possible. If a parent cannot or should not receive custody of the child(ren), they may still be awarded visitation rights. The court will decide who receives custody based on the “best interests of the child.” The court will consider many factors of a custody agreement, such as which parent has had a greater role in the child’s life and which home environment is best for the child. Some of these factors may also be relevant to a decision on who receives visitation rights.

    Who will get physical custody of the child or children?

    You must understand the difference between legal and physical child custody. This decision may be the most important part of your child custody agreement. You and the other parent should try to agree on a custody arrangement that is best for your child. The custody arrangement should be written down and submitted to the court for approval. If you and the other parent cannot agree on a custody arrangement after mediating and negotiating, the court will decide for you.

    The judge will make his or her decision based on the “best interests of the child” factors.

    Which Parent Will Have Decision-Making Authority?

    Your child custody agreement should also include which parent has decision-making authority for their child’s health, education, and general welfare. If you and the other parent agree on this, you can submit it to the court for approval. If you are not able to decide on a shared Decision-Making Authority plan, the court will decide which parent has this authority.

    Can a child custody case be modified or changed in the future?

    In custody cases, you also need to see what is in the best interest of the minor child. Traditionally, having a strong relationship with both parents is seen as the best interest of the minor child and if someone is stopping that from happening, then perhaps speaking with a child custody modification lawyer is in the child’s best interest.

    Resource: Child Custody Cases Involving Abuse, Alcohol, or Drugs

    Paternity Testing for the Purposes of Child Custody

    In some child custody cases, it is unclear who the child’s father is. Before awarding physical and legal custody to a father, paternity must be legally established.

    Paternity may be unclear when the parents aren’t married or when paternity is contested. Proving paternity is critical in child custody cases if either parent desires for the child to have a continuing relationship with their father.

    Not all paternity tests are equal. If you need a paternity test and want to be certain that a Missouri court of law will accept the results, contact a seasoned paternity attorney as soon as possible.

    Hire an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

    At Haefner Law Office, we understand how delicate child custody can be. We know that the court’s decision can impact your life and the life of your child. As a result, we are committed to providing each one of our clients with dedicated and zealous legal representation throughout the case proceedings.

    We will help you gather important evidence that illustrates your case to the court, and we will passionately advocate for your parental rights under the law. You can be confident that you are being adequately represented with our office by your side and that we will fight for the best outcome possible.

    If you are involved in a child custody case or simply have questions about child custody laws in Missouri, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free phone consultation by calling (314) 200-6101.

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