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7 Things to Know About Missouri Family Law

Whether you are going through a divorce, a legal separation or a child custody dispute, you should educate yourself on Missouri family law. Missouri family law is the area of law that covers such domestic-related issues as marriage, divorce, spousal support, child support and child custody.

In this article, you will learn about seven important Missouri family law topics. If you have additional questions, you can seek the advice of an experienced Missouri family law attorney.

1. Missouri Family Law Courts

Whether you are going through a divorce or seeking to modify a child support order, you will want to file the legal paperwork with the Missouri Circuit Court in the county in which you reside or in which your spouse or child's other parent resides.

2. Missouri Child Custody Dispute Factors

If you share custody of a minor child and are going through a divorce, legal separation or are seeking sole custody of the child, you will want to file a petition for child custody with the proper court.

When determining to whom to award custody and whether it is sole custody or joint custody, the judge presiding over your case will consider the following factors:

  • The wishes of the parents and their proposed parenting plans
  • The child's need to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, as well as the parents' willingness and abilities to facilitate that
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings and others who may impact the child's best interests
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent
  • The child's adjustment to school, home and community
  • Any history of abuse, as well as the mental and physical health of all parties
  • The wishes of the child
  • The intention of either parent to relocate

3. Factors in Deciding Missouri Child Support

According to Missouri State child support laws, judges presiding over child support cases should factor in the following when making child support decisions:

  • The financial needs and resources of the child
  • The financial needs and resources of the parents
  • If it is a divorce case or a legal separation, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed but for the divorce or separation
  • The physical and emotional condition of the child
  • The specifics of the custody arrangement
  • The reasonable work-related childcare expenses of each parent

4. Altering Missouri Custody and Child Support Orders

According to Missouri family law, only a judge can alter a custody order or a child support order. Even if the parents come to an agreement outside of court, it will not be considered a legal agreement.

Instead, the parents should file a motion to modify child support or a motion to modify child custody and support.

Even when filing this motion, parents will have to show that circumstances have changed since the order was originally put in place and that the new arrangement would be in the best interests of the child.

5. Mediation in Missouri Child Custody Disputes

If parties to a divorce or a child custody dispute would rather avoid the stress, time and expense of a lengthy trial, they can opt to negotiate the terms of their dispute in mediation.

Mediation is a confidential process in which an impartial third party facilitates communications between the two parties to promote an agreement.

The agreements made in mediation must be brought before a judge, so the judge can enforce the agreement through a court order.

6. Missouri Child Support Enforcement

If a non-custodial parent is refusing to pay child support, then the custodial parent can take action to enforce the child support order. A non-custodial parent is the parent who does not have physical custody of the child, while a custodial parent does.

If you are having problems collecting child support from the non-custodial parent, you can attempt to enforce the order yourself, you can hire a Missouri family law attorney to assist you or you can contact the Family Support Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services, also known as the FSD.

The FSD can then take the following actions:

  • Garnish the parent's wages or benefits
  • Intercept the parent's tax refunds or lottery winnings
  • Order employers to enroll the parent's children in health care plans
  • Report parents to credit bureaus
  • File liens against personal property
  • Suspend licenses
  • File civil contempt or criminal non-support charges against the parent
  • Work with other states to collect child support if the parent lives outside Missouri

7. Father's Rights in Missouri

A Missouri family law judge is not supposed to give preference to the mother or father when making decisions regarding divorce, child custody or child support. This means that a mother's rights are the same as a father's rights. Missouri fathers have the same ability as mothers to petition the court for custody of a child and for child support.

When seeking child custody or child support, a father must prove that awarding him custody would be in the best interests of the child and that child support is necessary given the parents' and child's needs and financial circumstances.

If you are a Missouri father and you believe the Missouri family law courts have treated you unfairly, contact a Missouri child custody attorney and discuss your legal options.