Ending a marriage in St Louis is never a simple process, but the situation can be significantly more complicated if you and your spouse have young children. While adults can be emotionally affected by a divorce, young children can face particular struggles when their parents separate. They will experience major changes in their everyday lives, and it is important to approach the St Louis divorce process with the best interests of your children in mind.
Child-related Matters in a Divorce
Missouri law requires parents to address a variety of child-related issues as part of the divorce process. The law focuses on the best interests of the child and aims to ensure that both parents uphold their responsibilities to support their children. The following are the major child-related matters in a St. Louis divorce case:
Child custody and visitation – The days are gone when the courts favored giving custody to a mother and simply providing periodic visitations with a father. Instead, courts now presume that shared custody is in the best interests of the child if a situation allows for it. Parents should work to agree on a custody schedule that works for everyone involved – and there are many options for schedule. For example, some parents split time 50/50, while others may have the children during the week, and the other parent has them on the weekend.
If you are concerned that your spouse poses a threat to your child or is not fit to be a parent – such as in cases of domestic abuse or substance abuse – you may fight for sole custody of your child. This can be a complicated situation, especially if your spouse tries to fight for custody rights.
Parenting plans – You and your spouse should develop a detailed written parenting plan that addresses the schedule for custody and visitation, as well as when each parent should make decisions regarding the child’s life and well-being. The more detailed your parenting plan, the less conflict you may face down the road.
Child support – If there is a financial disparity between the parents, one parent may have to pay child support to the other to make sure each parent provides their share of financial support. Child support is determined by a specific formula, though sometimes you may need to adjust the amount to ensure the support order is fair given the circumstances.
While the focus may rest largely on the legal issues regarding your young children, it is highly important to always keep their emotional health in mind during the divorce process. When parents work together, they can often make it easier for their children to adjust to having divorced parents. This cooperation should last as the child grows older whenever possible.
There are many benefits to healthy co-parenting, including:
- Your child will not feel like they have to “choose” between parents
- You set an example of conflict resolution and compromise for your child
- Your child may feel more secure, even as their normal routine is upended
- A positive vibe can help your child understand that the divorce is not their fault
Divorcing spouses often have a difficult time getting along. However, the more adversarial a divorce gets, the less of a chance that parents will be able to maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship into the future. For this reason, it is always a good idea to explore every option for cooperation and agreement during the divorce.
Even if you cannot reach an agreement regarding child custody and other issues right from the start, the right attorney can help facilitate discussion and negotiation. One often helpful option is divorce mediation. Mediation involves both spouses sitting down with a third party mediator who helps them discuss their respective wishes and arguments openly and honestly. This often leads to successful negotiation and a mediation agreement that works for both spouses.
Mediation can help parents with young children maintain a civil and cooperative attitude, which can help with healthy co-parenting into the future. If you reach a mediation agreement, it can avoid going to court, which allows you to keep control over your custody arrangement, as well as save money and resources.
When you decide to get divorced, you will need to tell your young children what is happening. It is often best to do so together and to show a united front. Always ensure that your children know they are your priority and that they have your support as they go through an important life change.
Learn How a St. Louis Divorce and Mediation Lawyer Can Help
At the J. Rench Law Firm in St. Louis, attorney Jennifer Rench helps divorcing spouses find solutions during the legal process through mediation and collaboration. We understand that the well-being of your young children is at stake, and we help you resolve your divorce issues in the most effective and cooperative way possible. Call 314-725-4000 or contact us online today.