Co-parenting is difficult under the best of circumstances. It requires a flexible plan that can be adapted to suit the needs of a changing family. Many couples find that the parenting plans they create do not meet their needs as their families change. When that happens, it might be time for a change. Some couples are able to negotiate changes without the intervention of the family court through mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. For other families, it might be necessary to go back to court and let a judge issue new custody orders. Parents should be sure to consult with an experienced St. Louis child custody attorney about their legal parenting rights.
Call (314) 328-5423 to schedule your free consultation with divorce mediation attorney Jennifer Rench. Ms. Rench has extensive experience in dealing with child custody matters in the courts of St. Louis, and she can help you determine the best way to resolve parenting disputes. She has helped many St. Louis families come up with creative solutions to the problems created by co-parenting. And when it is necessary to take a custody dispute to court, she fights hard to protect her clients’ parenting rights.
How Do I Modify a Missouri Child Custody Order?
To modify an existing child custody order, a parent must first file a petition with the family court. This will usually be in the same court that issued the initial custody order. If, however, the parents and child now reside in another county, the case may be transferred to the new home jurisdiction. The other parent is given notice of the petition and has the opportunity to file an answer to it. If the parents cannot agree on a new parenting plan, the case will be set for a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will determine whether there are legal grounds to modify the existing custody orders.
Section 453.410 requires a judge to make two specific findings before he or she may modify an existing child custody order. First, there must be a change of circumstances based upon facts that were not known to the court before (or have arisen since the prior custody order). Second, a modification of the existing custody order must be necessary to serve the best interests of the child. If the judge finds that both these conditions are met, then he or she may make only those modifications that are necessary to serve the best interests of the child (or children).
How Do I Prove That Modifications Are in the Best Interest of the Children?
The “best interest of the child” standard is highly subjective. Each parent, judge, and an attorney can easily come to different conclusions about what custody orders are actually in the best interests of the child. It is, therefore, difficult to predict exactly what a judge will do when presented with this question. As frustrating as this can be, the standard is actually flexible by design. Family court judges are tasked with making whatever orders will be best for the children – regardless of what the parents want, or what the attorneys argue. There is no “one size fits all” solution for every family or every child before the court. The legal standard, therefore, allows significant discretion for judges so that family court judges can adapt their rulings to the specific needs of an individual child.
So how do you go about convincing a judge that your proposed modifications are in the best interest of your children? This depends on your children’s needs. It depends on the schools they attend, their extracurricular activities, their friends, their doctors, their special needs, and their other parent. It is highly dependent upon the situation. And of course, different judges can reach different conclusions about the same children. This is why it is so critical to consult with an experienced St. Louis child custody lawyer who has experience making “best interests of the child” arguments to various local family court judges. An experienced attorney will know which evidence is persuasive and which is less so. An attorney will also know which arguments resound with which judges. These critical experiences will help you make the strongest possible argument when asking the court to make necessary modifications to your child custody orders.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Consultation with a St. Louis Divorce Attorney
Attorney Jennifer Rench is an experienced attorney who understands St. Louis mediation as it related to child custody and other issues. Call (314) 328-5423 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.