Deciding child custody as part of a divorce or as a separate, stand-alone child custody dispute can be a difficult and emotionally-charged ruling for a Missouri judge to make. State law provides some guidance for judges by directing that custody should be decided by taking into consideration the best interests of the child, but it fails to offer a definition of what is meant by best interests.
One year ago, a mother hired two young men to kidnap her one-year-old daughter from the child's father, who had legal custody of the girl. Recently, the woman entered a guilty plea to three felony charges in Jasper County Circuit Court. As part of the plea deal, additional charges against the woman were dropped.
We recently commented on a study showing that co-parenting arrangements, in which divorcing parents share joint custody of a child, are becoming increasingly popular with judges. In that post, we recommended that Missouri parents should be cautious when entering into such agreements, and they should make sure that their rights and the best interests of the child are protected.
In judgments of divorce involving custody matters, custody is generally awarded to the parties in two separate ways: legal custody and physical custody. For example, the custody order may say that both parties share joint legal custody of a child, while one party retains sole physical custody. So, what exactly does this mean?
Stange Law Firm, PC, a family law firm, with offices in Missouri in St. Louis (Brentwood), West St. Louis County (Ellisville), St. Charles, Jefferson County (Arnold), Franklin County (Union) and St. Louis City (by appointment only), along with three offices in Illinois in the St. Louis Metro East, has now opened an office in Lincoln County in Troy at 20 Centerline Drive, Troy, Missouri 63379. This new office office will better serve the firm's clients in Lincoln County, Missouri and in the western edge of St. Charles County, Warren County, Pike County, Montgomery County and the surrounding areas. The opening was July 1, 2014.
The rapid social and socio-economic changes that have taken place in America over the past few decades have resulted in developments in family law that would have seemed inconceivable only a few generations ago. The rise of no-fault divorce, the increasing acceptance of single-parent families and unmarried couples having children and, most recently, same-sex marriage are some examples.
According to a study recently published in Demography magazine, custody agreements shared between parents is becoming more popular with judges. This increased reliance on joint custody arrangements has ramifications for parents in Missouri who are contemplating divorce or modification of child custody matters.
Child custody battles are often the most contentious issue in divorce and separation proceedings. Whether those battles are waged by Missouri residents or by celebrities in the limelight, the parties may use all the resources at their disposal to get the desired result. The former girlfriend of Mel Gibson used the timing of filing domestic abuse allegations to fight for her custodial rights.