When parents divorceor run into other legal issues, they sometimes worry about whether or not they will still have the same rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children. In other words, they worry they may lose custody in a divorce or domestic dispute. In messy separations and divorces, some vindictive parents may try to take sole custody of the child and may try to prevent their child from having any contact with their other parent. Thankfully, Missouri family laws typically try to keep families together, so long as the parent-child relationship is in the best interest of the child.
Most judges will recognize that children often do better when they are able to benefit from the involvement of both parents. However, when one parent is uninvolved, dangerous, or otherwise unfit, the other parent may act as the sole custodial parent. In some situations, though rare, both parents might lose their rights, which means the custody of the child may fall to another party entirely.
If you are concerned about losing custody of your child, find out how Missouri laws address custody issues and parental rights.
Establishing Parental Rights
Both a mother and a father have inherent rights as parents when their child is born. If the parents were married at the time of the child’s birth, the father will be granted parental rights automatically. However, if he is not married to the child’s mother, he will need to sign additional documents to secure his rights as a father. Once these rights are established, it can be quite difficult for anyone to take away a parent’s rights completely.
Factors the Court Considers
When both parents want custody of their child, the court will look at several different factors before deciding on a custody arrangement that works for the family. The essential goal of this process is to find a plan that works in the best interest of the child.
The court will consider:
- The wishes of each parent
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s relationship with the other members of each parent’s household
- The child’s involvement in the community each parent belongs to
- Each parent’s health
- The child’s health and any special care needs
- The child’s wishes, if he or she is considered old enough to have a say
The court aims to keep families together, which means it will usually only take away a parent’s rights in extreme circumstances. However, there are ways in which your parenting rights could be jeopardized. If, for example, a parent is charged with domestic violence, he or she could lose custody of their child, or may be limited to supervised visitations. Parents convicted of violent crimes, sexual offenses, or other serious crimes might also lose custodial rights. Additionally, the child’s other parent might petition the court for full custody if he or she feels that the other parent is unfit or dangerous. For example, if a father feels that his child’s mother’s home is unsafe because he witnessed the mother doing drugs in the home, he may ask the court for sole custody of the child they share.
If you are concerned about losing custody of your child, make sure you act quickly to protect your rights.
Contact Smith Law Offices, LLC to discuss your child custody or visitation case with our experienced St. Charles family attorneys.