CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEY IN ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Child custody can be the most emotional part of dissolving a marriage. Dividing your assets is one thing. Dividing custody of your children is quite another, but thousands of couples face that challenge every year. In 2018, more than 18,600 couples divorced in Missouri, and 46% of those dissolutions involved children.
Maybe you’re thinking about getting a divorce and don’t know what to expect in negotiating child custody issues. Or, maybe you’re divorced and have an existing agreement you want to change. Either way, you need to consult a family law attorney for advice about such a critical aspect of your life and your child’s.
At the Doskocil Law Firm, I’ve been helping clients in St. Louis and St. Louis County, Missouri navigate complex child custody issues for more than 30 years. Although every client’s circumstances are unique, I’ve learned there are a lot of common challenges with child custody, and I can put my knowledge and experience to work for you.
ESTABLISHING A CHILD CUSTODY ARRANGEMENT
Child custody agreements are detailed plans covering issues such as parenting time, visitation, and financial support. There are two options divorcing parents can take to reach an arrangement:
You and your spouse can agree on the terms of child custody and present that agreement to the court for approval. This is the fastest, least expensive, and often, less painful option. It allows the parents to decide the terms of the agreement instead of the court. Advice from an experienced attorney can help you keep the conversation productive and on track.
If you and your spouse can’t agree to terms, you’ll take your case to court where the judge will gather information and construct a child custody agreement. Even though the judge takes the lead in this situation, your attorney can help you present your views on establishing what you feel is in the best interest of your children.
LEGAL CUSTODY VS. PHYSICAL CUSTODY
There are two types of custody. The parent awarded “legal custody” makes decisions such as where children will attend school and what doctors they will see. “Physical custody” involves where the children live, which parent will make day-to-day decisions for them, and visitation issues such as which parent they spend holidays with. Legal custody and physical custody can be awarded to one parent (sole custody) or be shared by both parents (joint custody).
IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD
In the eyes of the court, the foundation of any child custody agreement is anchored by the children’s best interest. According to Missouri statute, that involves ensuring children have “frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents” and both parents “participate in decisions affecting the health, education, and welfare of their children.” Whether you and your spouse agree on a child custody arrangement or the judge determines that arrangement, the court will focus on what it believes is in the best interest of the child.
MODIFYING AN EXISTING CHILD CUSTODY AGREEMENT
Child custody agreements can be modified for a number of reasons. Children’s needs and interests change as they grow up, as might their preferences for which parent they live with. The circumstances of parents can also change. For example, if they remarry or relocate for a new job. Or, maybe a parent isn’t abiding by the current agreement. As with the initial child custody arrangement, modifications must be approved by the court. If both parents agree on a modified plan, they can present it to the judge for approval. If they are unable to agree, the judge will make that determination.
HOW LEGAL COUNSEL CAN HELP
Raising children is complicated. So is determining how children should be raised when parents divorce. Even if a divorce is relatively amicable, an experienced family law attorney can help you understand all the factors involved in child custody and be your advocate during the legal process. If the divorce is not amicable, legal counsel is even more important to your future and your children’s.
CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEY IN ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
With so much riding on child custody in your divorce or in your wishes for modification of an existing agreement, look to the Doskocil Law Firm for help. For more than 30 years, I’ve been helping parents like you in the greater St. Louis, Missouri area explore their options, make tough decisions, and present their best case to the court. If you’re thinking about divorce or if you want to modify an existing child custody agreement, call my office today to schedule an appointment. Take this first step in ensuring your child’s best interest and in turn, your own.