A Reputable Missouri Family Law Firm Supporting Parents for Over 100 Years
No parent wants to go through a contentious custody battle – for their own sake and for their child’s. Our firm has been supporting parents in St. Joseph for more than 100 years. Our generations of attorneys have passed down important family values and knowledge of the law informing how we can best advocate for parents seeking custody. We know how the Missouri courts work, and we will craft a compelling case for your right to custody and parenting time. We can also help you deal with related issues like parental alienation and paternity.
Missouri offers two types of custody – physical and legal.
- Physical custody refers to with whom the child will reside.
- Legal custody refers to the decision-making power for legal matters related to the child, such as where they will attend school and what medical care they should receive.
Parents can either share joint custody, or the court may decide to award sole custody to only one parent.
Child Custody Arrangement Process in MO
Parents can work on their own custody arrangement with the help of their attorneys. If they cannot agree, however, they must proceed to court, where the judge will make the decision based on the best interests of the child. Such best-interest factors include:
- each parent's wishes for custody;
- the child's need for a meaningful relationship with both parents;
- each parent's ability and willingness to perform their functions as parent for the child's needs;
- the child's interaction and relationship with parents, siblings, and anyone else who affects the child's best interest;
- which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the other parent;
- the child's adjustment to home, school, and community;
- the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- either parent's history of domestic violence;
- either parent's plans to relocate the child; and
- the child's wishes for custody if they are of mature age.
How Do You Get Full Child Custody in Missouri?
In Missouri, custody refers to the legal authority to make decisions about a child's upbringing and welfare. There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about a child's upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and who is responsible for their care on a day-to-day basis.
- To get full custody in Missouri, you will need to file a petition for custody with the court. The court will consider a variety of factors when determining custody, including the child's best interests, the child's relationships with each parent, and each parent's ability to care for the child.
- It is generally best for parents to try to reach an agreement on custody and parenting time, rather than leaving it up to the court to decide. If you are unable to reach an agreement, the court will make a custody determination based on the best interests of the child.
It is important to note that Missouri law presumes that it is in the child's best interests to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, unless it is shown that this is not in the child's best interests. The court will consider all relevant factors when determining custody, including any history of abuse or neglect by either parent.
Modifying a Custody Order
Parents have the right to request a modification of their child custody order after it has been issued. The courts favor stability for the children, but they also aim to protect the child’s best interests. Circumstances naturally change over time, and as the child grows, so may their needs and interests. A parent looking for modification of a custody order may obtain a change in the terms if they can show that, since the order was last entered, there has been a change in either the child’s or the parent’s circumstances (that would impact the child). For example, if a parent has changed jobs with different working hours, they have sufficient grounds to request an adjustment of the existing custody schedule.
As exhibited above, the court emphasizes parental cooperation when it comes to child custody issues. Parents who are willing to support each other’s time with the child will be granted a more favorable custody arrangement. Unfortunately, not all parents are as willing to honor that agreement. Parental alienation refers to a parent’s purposeful alienation of the child from the other parent physically, mentally, or emotionally. Some examples of parental alienation include:
- speaking ill of the other parent to the child so as to form negative opinions of that other parent in their head;
- physically denying the other parent access to the child;
- bribing the child with toys and gifts to draw them closer to the gift-giving parent and convincing them to spend less time with the other.
It is unlawful for a parent to act such a way with the child, as it denies the other parent’s right to the child. Keel v. Keel (2014) established that joint custody is improper when parents cannot communicate or cooperate with one another. The mother in the case restricted the father’s access to the children, made decisions without his input, and withheld information from him about the children. This breakdown in communication was a sufficient ground to modify the custody arrangement based on the mother’s actions of parental alienation.
Unmarried Parental Rights in Missouri
Unmarried parents seeking custody orders must establish their legal parentage before the court can intervene. In Missouri, the mother is granted automatic custody and full parental rights.
Establishing Missouri Father's Custody Rights
A father interested in petitioning for custody, however, must first prove their paternity, either through an affidavit signed voluntarily by the mother or, if the mother refuses, through a court petition or genetic test.
While the alleged father is not legally the parent, he cannot make legal decisions for the child, and the child will not have access to the father’s benefits and medical history. So, establishing the parental relationship is important for both the parent and the child.
Why Hire a Child Custody Attorney?
Child custody matters can involve highly sensitive matters and become hotly contested until the final court hearing. That is why hiring a child custody attorney can provide invaluable assistance to any parent who is facing the legal complexities of child custody in court.
Here are several benefits of hiring an experienced child custody lawyer:
- Helps you navigate the legal process
- Provides an objective point of view in difficult situations
- Knows court procedures, filing deadlines, and paperwork requirements
- Can inform you about possible outcomes or solutions to parenting issues
- Understands the laws around child custody matters and can provide expert advice accordingly
- Negotiates a settlement agreement on your behalf that will be taken into consideration by a judge during proceedings
- Has access to resources that may help support your case such as psychologists or financial advisors
- Reviews all documents related to the case thoroughly
- Protects your rights and best interests throughout legal proceedings
Contact Our Child Custody Lawyers Today
If you are dealing with child custody family law issues in St. Joseph, do not hesitate to contact our firm for legal guidance. We have been advocating for parents for decades, and we are deeply familiar with the Missouri court system. We will do our best to protect your parent-child relationship and negotiate a favorable parenting plan.
Contact Kranitz, Sadoun & Carpenter online for an initial consultation to learn more about how our child custody attorneys can help you in your custody dispute.
Michelle Carpenter is amazing at what she does. I highly recommend her and her team. She got us exactly what we wanted.- Dustin G.
Michelle and Hugh went above and beyond to help me when I got in trouble. I would recommend them again and again. Great team and people to work with. Thank you both for everything you did!!!- Kody K.
Dear Michelle, Thank you for all the hard work you did on my custody case. You really put your energy and heart into what you were doing. An attorney like that is rare to find I’m sure, and I am just so glad that I chose you to represent me.- Ellen S.
One of the best law firms in the area.- Former Client
Hugh has been our lawyer for the past 30 plus years. He is honest, straight to the point and he knows how to calm our fears. We couldn’t have picked a better lawyer when we needed one and we will always go back to him when needed.- Danielle B.