As frequent visitors to our blog know, we often like to talk about Missouri law and how it affects residents here in St. Louis County and across Missouri. In a post back in February last year, we talked about the push across the nation for joint custody arrangements, which oftentimes provide a middle ground between fathers’ rights advocates and a child’s best interests. In the post, we left it up to our readers to decide whether they thought the same way.
In today’s post though, we’d like to continue our February 2014 discussion by asking an important question: do a child’s best interests and father’s rights go hand in hand? We ask this question because of a sentiment felt by many fathers across the nation, including here in Missouri, regarding a judge’s acknowledgement of a father’s parental rights.
Despite a growing trend to award joint custody and shared parenting time, many fathers still feel like judges prefer awarding custody to mothers over fathers. In some cases, awarding custody to a mother over a father may stand in stark juxtaposition to the guiding principle of a child’s best interest, particularly in cases where the mother is less fit than the father to care for the child.
Here in Missouri, a lot of things are taken into consideration before a judge will order a joint custody arrangement. Things like both parents’ ability to raise and care for the child, their ability to communicate effectively and work together for the sake of the child, and the fitness of each parent are just a few things accounted for in §452.375.2 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. Even if these conditions are met, a judge will still consider what is in the child’s best interest, which doesn’t always lead to joint custody in every case.
Because Missouri judges have so much discretion when it comes to determining child custody arrangements, it’s important for residents in St. Louis County and across the state to seek legal counsel during custody disputes, particularly because a lawyer is better equipped to protect a father’s rights than a father is on his own.