After a divorce, both mothers and fathers in Missouri could be entitled to legal or physical custody rights to their children. Legal custody refers to a parent's ability to make decisions about how the child will be raised. These decisions could include the type of medical treatment a son or daughter might get or where they will go to school. If a parent has physical custody of a minor, the child stays with that parent.
Some Missouri couples who have children find their relationship improves once their divorce is finalized, and they are settled in their respective new homes. For others, the same conflicts that prevented the continuation of the marriage make post-divorce contact problematic. However, where those problems rise to the level of causing one parent to interfere with the other parent's time with the children, it may be necessary to return to the family law court to address the issue.
Family law judges in Missouri and around the country consider the best interests of the child when making custody and visitation decisions, and that often results in co-parenting arrangements where mothers are the primary caregivers. This can be difficult for fathers who are used to seeing their children every day to accept, but the transition can be made easier, and the emotional damages suffered by the children involved minimized, if both parents work together.
One of the most painful aspects of many divorces in Missouri has been the traditional assumptions that one parent, often the father, really does not need to spend much time with their children. A couple could granted joint custody and a father could still wind up being awarded a few hours on a weeknight and every other weekend.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed House Bill 1550 into law, which will help promote more shared custody and visitation agreements between divorcing parents. The goal of the law is to ensure that fathers are not cut out of the parenting process by unfair and out-of-date custody or visitation agreements.
A bill has been passed by the Missouri legislature and is awaiting action by the governor that would require that family court judges in the state begin child custody actions with the presumption that if the parents cannot agree, a shared parenting plan with equal time between parents will be the default plan.
It is understandable that you may be intimidated by the prospect of seeking court intervention to have your rights to custody and parenting time recognized. After all, you may think that there is an inherent bias against men in family court. While some unscrupulous moms may want you to believe this myth, it is simply not true. As a father, you do have rights when it comes to making parenting decisions. With unmarried fathers, however, there is a specific process that must be followed to have these rights recognized.