The well-being of children is vital to parents facing a separation or divorce. Nearly every mother and father is deeply concerned about stability and protection of their children. A mother's rights, a father's rights, and children's best interests all matter.
What Is Custody And How Is Custody Decided?
In Missouri, there are two components to the custody of a child: physical custody and legal custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions relating to the child's health, education, and welfare. Physical custody refers to the right each parent has to physical time with the child.
Missouri favors joint legal and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody means both parents have equal decision-making rights for the children. Joint physical custody means both parents are entitled to have significant periods of time with the child. Joint physical custody does not mean the parties share time with the child equally.
If the parties cannot agree on legal custody or how to share time with the child, the Court will make the decision after a formal hearing where each parent presents evidence. In making the decision, the Court will determine what is in the best interest of the minor child. Missouri law requires that the Court consider all relevant factors including:
- The wishes of the child's parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties
- The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the other parent
- The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved
- The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child
- The wishes of the child
Custody: A Common Area Of Disagreement
Reaching a custody arrangement and developing a working parenting plan are often the most stressful and challenging parts of a divorce. As caring, experienced family law attorneys, we at Hutchings & Schwappach work to educate our clients on a variety of custody arrangements and possible parenting plans so we can find one that best fits our client's family. We understand each family is unique, so often a "standard" parenting plan just won't work.
The Power Of Good-Faith Negotiations Or Mediation
Parents who are separated or planning to divorce need to arrive at reasonable agreements. An agreement should respect parental rights and children's best interests. Parents are in the best position to know what is best for their children. A family law judge will not understand unique family circumstances or children's temperaments, and rarely the best person to decide on child custody and visitation arrangements. This is why we strongly recommend negotiation or mediation.
However, sometimes it becomes necessary to take a case to trial. At Hutchings & Schwappach, we will represent clients zealously and persuasively in a courtroom if necessary. We advocate skillfully for our clients in child custody and child support matters both at the negotiation table and in court.
Contact Our Lawyers For Help With Custody Matters
Nothing is more important than time with your children. Hutchings & Schwappachis is here to help you protect your parent-child relationship. From law offices in Liberty, Missouri, we practice in Kansas City and the surrounding areas. We also frequently work with clients who live out of state and have cases in the Kansas City area. Contact us by email or by phone at 816-479-4790.