Child Custody Lawyers title

Child Custody Lawyers

Child Custody Lawyers offer guidance and assistance during what may be one of the most difficult times in your life. At Masterson Law, we’re here to fight for the best interests of your children.

Summer Masterson-Goethals
Masterson Law
(417) 522-1280
1771 S. Fremont
Springfield, MO 65804

Child Custody Lawyers

When a couple divorces, choices about child custody, visitation, and co-parenting are incredibly delicate and can be a major source of conflict and worry. Child custody, which involves a variety of rights and obligations concerning how parents care for their children, is one of the most important decisions that parents and the court will make during a divorce in Springfield, MO or elsewhere. 

There are two elements of child custody:

  • Physical child custody: This specifies in whose home a child will live after the divorce. This will generally be that of the main caretaker, but in some cases, it can be both homes on a rotating basis.
  • Legal child custody: This is the authority of one or both parents to make decisions on matters regarding the wellness of the child. This can include health care, education, and religious upbringing.

With both your rights as a parent and the well-being of your children at stake, one of the most important things you can do after you and your spouse make the decision to separate is to seek counsel from skilled child custody lawyers as quickly as possible.

Best Child Custody Lawyer

The dedicated and compassionate child custody lawyers of Masterson Law have comprehensive experience working with couples going through a divorce to work out child custody plans and settle parenting concerns. The primary aim of our child custody lawyers is to assist separating partners with putting personal emotions aside to do what is in the best interest of their children.

Read on to learn more about how the child custody process works and how the child custody lawyers at Masterson Law can help you every step of the way.

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How to Get Full Custody of a Child

Full custody, also known as sole custody, describes a child custody agreement in which only one parent has complete custody of the child. A parent with full custody is typically described as the primary custodial parent. The primary custodial parent usually has complete rights regarding legal and physical custody. Often, however, the non-custodial parent might be needed to help in the upbringing of the child by making child support payments to the custodial parent each month. 

If you would like to obtain full custody of your child, the most effective way to do so is to work with a team of dedicated child custody lawyers. The skilled child custody lawyers at Masterson Law will listen to your desires, analyze your case, and help you develop a comprehensive plan to convince the court that sole custody is the best option for the child.

Grounds for Full Custody of Child

By default, family court typically determines that it’s best for parents to have split custody of the child. Full child custody is granted only if the court is certain that the decision would be in the best interest of the child, not just because one parent requests it.  

There is one exception to this. If the other parent approves of the full custody agreement without a fight, you can both present the agreement to the court and it will likely be approved. However, this type of arrangement is exceptionally rare, and most parents will fight to keep joint custody of the child, requiring you to prove to the court why sole custody would be in the child’s best interest.

To gain full custody of your child, you must be able to prove that the other parent is incapable of properly co-parenting the child and that the child would benefit most from a sole custody agreement. There are a number of arguments that can be brought up in court to argue why sole custody is in the child’s best interest.

Reasons to Lose Custody of a Child

Some of the reasons why a parent can lose custody of a child include:

  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Unsafe housing
  • Significant relocation
  • Substance abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Mental illness
  • Incarceration

It’s important to note that this list is not all-inclusive, but these are some of the most likely reasons why the court may determine that a parent is not fit to have custody of a child. Also note that these examples of how a parent could be unfit for custody involve extreme circumstances that can significantly harm the child, so gaining full custody will require proving that your child’s well-being could be compromised by a joint custody agreement

If full custody is not granted, there might be other appropriate options available, such as legal guardianship, shared/joint custody, scheduled visitations, or other alternatives. If this happens, your child custody lawyer will work with you to determine which option is ideal and how to pursue it in court. 

How to Get Full Custody of a Child

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Child Custody Mediation Checklist

In many cases, the circumstances surrounding child custody will not need to be argued in court. Child custody mediation (also known as dispute resolution) is an ideal method to determine child custody, allowing both parents to sit down with a neutral mediator to respectfully work out a child custody agreement that puts the child’s best interests first. 

Whether you and your partner are preparing to share equal custody of your child, or if one parent will have primary custody, there is a range of choices to be made prior to the court establishing an official child custody agreement. Your mediator will methodically work to consider all factors of the custody case, but you can assist by being prepared with your own thoughts, plans, and ideas. 

Child Custody Mediation Checklist Example

The following list of questions can serve to help you arrange your ideas ahead of your mediation session:

  • Which parent will the child regularly live with?
  • How much time will the child spend with each parent, and what will be the schedule?
  • What will be the plan for transporting the child between homes?
  • What will be the arrangements for special events like birthdays, holidays, and religious observances? 
  • How will the parents divide vacation time?
  • What will be the visitation schedule for members of the child’s extended family?
  • How will communication be facilitated between the child and the noncustodial parent?
  • How will decisions be made regarding the child’s health, education, discipline, and other significant matters?
  • What will be the process if one of the parents wants to move away?

How to Win Child Custody Mediation

Child custody mediation can only be successful when both parties approach the session with open, honest, and respectful communication. In addition to being prepared with your ideas, here are some tips for a successful child custody mediation session:

  • Put your child’s best interests first
  • Leave personal conflict with the other parent out of the conversation
  • Be calm, professional, and courteous
  • Be open to listening to the mediator and the other parent
  • Be open to compromise
  • Bring multiple ideas for discussion
  • Take note of any and all concerns you’d like to discuss
  • Bring documents that could be useful for creating a plan, like work or school schedules
Child Custody Mediation Checklist

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Filing for Child Custody

To get your divorce and child custody case moving through the family court system, you will need to file a number of forms. This involves turning in the appropriate forms to the district court clerk to present information about the case and schedule a court hearing.

Before Filing Child Custody Forms

Before taking any action, it is best to consult a child custody lawyer. While you do not technically require a lawyer to apply for custody or file for a divorce, seeking advice from a family law expert can help you better understand the process and guide you through the appropriate forms.

You should also know the laws in your state (read about Missouri child custody laws here). Whether you are working with child custody lawyers or representing yourself, you’ll only gain from having a better understanding of the child custody laws of your state. Make an effort to research child custody laws by yourself and document any concerns you may have.

How to File for Child Custody

If you are working with child custody lawyers, they will guide you through the process of determining the appropriate forms and submitting the forms with the local family court. If you are applying for divorce and child custody pro se, or representing yourself, you will need to find out which forms must be submitted and where to submit them through your own research. Which forms you will need to file depends on your location and the specific circumstances of your case. 

 

If you choose to represent yourself, you should begin the process of gaining access to child custody forms. Numerous states now make their child custody forms readily available online. You can also reach out to the local circuit court clerk to address any concerns you might have about the child custody forms. Ensure that the information included on the forms is complete and accurate before submitting them.

Once the forms have been completed, you should turn them in at your district courthouse, where you’ll be informed of the time and date of your hearing. If you are working with an attorney, he or she will be able to facilitate this for you.

How to Write a Letter to the Court for Child Custody

When filing for child custody, the judge might ask you to compose a letter that describes your side of the story. This letter may be requested if the other parent contests your custody, or if a representative for your child such as a guardian ad litem has submitted a report with the court suggesting an opposing custody plan than the one you asked for. This letter should present your insights and evidence regarding your child custody case.

Here are a few tips on how to write this letter: 

  • Write clearly in your own words
  • Use bullet points to quickly convey an idea
  • Don’t insult the child’s other parent – only state facts
  • Attach relevant documents like bank statements or pay stubs
  • Make demands within reason
  • Keep it concise
  • Confirm that your statement has been made under oath and under penalty of perjury

If you do not feel comfortable writing this letter yourself, child custody lawyers can help draft one using your own words, thoughts, and ideas. However, regardless of whether you consult a lawyer to help draft the letter, it is always advised that you ask an attorney to review and edit your letter before you submit it.

Filing for Child Custody

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How to Change Jurisdiction for Child Custody

A concern frequently emerges when a child custody matter includes a parent or parents who have moved to another county or state. Due to the fact that a child custody order is based upon where a child lives at the time the order was created, a parent will need to modify the child custody order if he or she would like the new state of residence to have jurisdiction over the matter. 

If a child relocates to another county, the initial court will still have jurisdiction over the custody matter; however, changing counties will change the “venue” so that the court in the new county can manage the child custody matter.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

The concerns of child custody and visitation are dealt with by family courts, but identifying which state’s family court will deal with the case can be challenging if parents are uncertain of local custody and jurisdiction laws. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act was enacted to avoid confusion or the mishandling of multi-state jurisdiction and custody.

There is a range of aspects a court will think about when identifying whether another state can have jurisdiction over a child custody matter. To alter the jurisdiction, one or both parents will need to look for a modification of jurisdiction with the court where the initial child custody order was established. 

If a parent and child relocate to another state, the parent can look to have the child custody matter moved to the new state. The court will consider the reasoning behind why the parent and child are moving. If a parent wants to move to another state merely to get away from the other parent and to avoid the other parent from seeing the child, the court will most likely not approve a modification in jurisdiction. On the other hand, if the reasoning behind the relocation stands, such as military reassignment, the court will probably grant a modification in jurisdiction.

The court will consider all of the facts surrounding the case, and any choice on whether the jurisdiction of a child custody matter will need to be altered will constantly seek what remains in the best interests of the child. The court will rule out what only a parent desires. If a modification in jurisdiction will have an unfavorable effect on the child, the court will likely not approve the modification in jurisdiction. 

Since child custody matters are essential to guaranteeing that a child has a strong support system from both parents, it is important to look for legal assistance from child custody lawyers if you want a child custody matter to be governed by another jurisdiction. The family law attorneys at Masterson Law can help guide you through the process of changing jurisdiction for child custody so you can rest assured that your child’s best interests will always be protected no matter where they reside.

How to Change Jurisdiction for Child Custody

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Temporary Child Custody

Although most of the cases handled by child custody lawyers concern permanent child custody decisions, temporary child custody may be granted in some circumstances. Temporary child custody, released through a temporary custody order, is a court’s choice to award physical custody of a child to one parent pending a final decision of custody. 

Such an order might be released when the child’s parents separate in anticipation of a divorce, and a decision needs to be made regarding where the child will reside until the custody concern is solved. 

Emergency Child Custody

One common type of temporary child custody is emergency child custody. Emergency scenarios frequently require safeguarding the susceptible, and in many cases, that involves children. Each state has its own laws determining how to protect children from harm throughout demanding or unsafe circumstances like domestic violence, abuse or neglect, kidnapping, and even the sudden death of one or both parents, but most involve providing the child with some type of emergency custody arrangement.

There are various scenarios in which a court might step in to temporarily place a child in another person’s custody. If the court believes that the child remains in immediate danger, they can utilize their position to lawfully place them in the custody of another person until they believe it is safe to lift the order. Temporary emergency custody can be granted to designated guardians, relatives, legally appointed foster parents, and other individuals who may be legally qualified for custody rights.

Where your child will live and who will take care of him or her is one of the most important decisions that parents and the court can make, and having a trusted family law attorney by your side can make all the difference in protecting the well-being of your child. 

The child custody lawyers at Masterson Law work tirelessly to ensure that families and courts make the right decisions on child custody matters. No matter what type of child custody situation you may be experiencing, the Springfield, MO child custody lawyers at Masterson Law are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

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Summer Masterson-Goethals
Consumer and family lawyer, former legal aid attorney and Missouri Bar Leadership Academy member, Springfield Business Journal 40 under 40 Honoree. Site Map

Masterson Law
3030 E. Battlefield, Suite A
Springfield, MO 65804
(417) 522-1280

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