Missouri child custody laws state the court is required to determine what is in the best interests of the children.
When determining the best interests of the children, the judge is required to consider all relevant factors, including the relationship between the children and parents and which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent.
So how can a parent increase the chances of obtaining a more favorable custody arrangement?
Cordell & Cordell St. Louis family law attorney Heather Biagi said there certainly are things a parent can do to improve their chances of convincing the court to grant them more parenting time, but conversely, there are certainly things that can be done to hurt those chances.
“You should be aware that everything that you say and do in front of the children or the other parent could make its way back to the judge,” Biagi said. “Your model behavior will greatly enhance your case. This is especially true if the other parent has not held him/herself to such high standards.”
An obvious first step to achieving maximum parenting time is to have your divorce attorney make a strong case for custody in the pleadings, according to Biagi. It’s also a strategic move because requesting more time conveys to the court your desire to maximize your role in your children’s lives.
However, Biagi is a firm believer that actions speak louder than words when it comes to a judge determining a custody schedule. Good examples of becoming more involved in your children’s lives include going to doctor appointments, getting involved with the school, and participating in activities that maybe you weren’t always able to join before.
“It’s important to show the court that you are taking those initiatives now even if you weren’t always able to during the marriage, such as if you were the breadwinner and not the primary caretaker,” she said.
Also, if the case is highly contested or if there are allegations of child mistreatment sometimes bringing in or appointing a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) can help assist on a difficult case where the opposing party may be making statements that you shouldn’t have the amount of parenting time desired.
There are two components to the custody of a child that the court must determine.
The court must decide which parent will have, or how both parents will share, the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child. This is referred to as legal custody.
The court must also decide where the child will have and how the parents will share the physical time with the child. This component is referred to as physical custody.
Certainly any strategic decision will be dictated by the specific case facts and should only be executed after a thorough discussion with a Missouri family law attorney.