Supporting Your Rights And Your Child’s Well-Being
Decisions regarding child custody are some of the most important decisions parents will ever have to make. The choices you make today will impact your children’s future. Having a supportive and understanding legal team to navigate you through the process can make all the difference. This extends to navigating child custody matters during the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing and quarantine have changed people’s day-to-day lives.
At Rogers Sevastianos & Bante LLP in Saint Louis, we help parents to make child custody choices that protect their children’s welfare. As parents ourselves, we understand the importance of promoting your child’s best interests throughout legal proceedings.
Missouri Child Custody
In the state of Missouri, child custody and visitation documents are referred to as parenting plans. Although child custody concerns most often arise out of divorce, the need for legal representation may arise out of any of a variety of situations:
- Paternity actions and petitions for custody
- If you are an unmarried father in Missouri, you will be subject to a child support order – but that does not mean you have child custody rights. In the past, if an unmarried father wanted custodial rights, a paternity suit had to be filed. Now, if you are the father listed on the birth certificate and are paying support, you can file a petition to gain custody and visitation rights. This means pursuing parental rights and drafting a parenting plan.
- Grandparent visitation
- In the state of Missouri, grandparents may have legal rights to visitation with their grandchildren in some circumstances. We are able to assist you in determining your legal standing and proceed from there.
- Parental relocation (“Move-away cases”)
- In Missouri, whether you are moving down the street or to another state, you have to provide formal notice to the other parent – and potentially get the permission of the court to do so, if your children are subject to a parenting plan.
- Modification of parenting plans
- Modifications of custody or visitation plans are allowed when there has been a substantial change in circumstances for the child or either parent.
- Custodial rights, parental rights and parental decision-making
- Disputes between parents can occur when one parent attempts to deny visitation to the other or makes a parenting decision the other parent does not agree with. Sometimes parents may not feel they have enough decision-making power in their children’s lives. When these situations occur, we can help you to develop an acceptable resolution or protect your rights in court.
Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement?
Courts do honor requests to modify custody if the petitioning parent can demonstrate two things. First, they must show that a change in circumstances has occurred. Second, they must show that because of the change, the current order is no longer in the best interests of the child. This is a high bar to meet, and a petition cannot be based on just the wishes of either parent or the wishes of a child.
That being said, there are times when it is both necessary and appropriate to seek a custody modification. Whether you are seeking a modification or seeking to prevent one, our attorneys can help you present the strongest arguments in favor of your position.
How To Navigate Child Custody During The Coronavirus Pandemic
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 but have made it more difficult for parents to navigate how to go about child custody/visitation for the foreseeable future. Some tips that may help you and your child’s parent during this time include:
1. Be Open To New Arrangements
Slowing the spread of COVID-19 and doing our best to keep not just ourselves, but other people safe should be the top priority right now. During this time, it is important to be adaptable and flexible and reach a consensus with your co-parent that is in the best interest of everyone.
You might be worried that compromising and temporarily changing your arrangement might lead to you seeing your child less, but it’s important to keep in mind that any current reduction in parenting time can be made up after the pandemic is over. In the meantime, video chatting, phone calls and other electronic methods can be used to safely keep parents not in possession but in close contact with their children.
2. Be Cooperative
Regardless of the history you and your child’s co-parent share, it is important to be cooperative and work with each other during this challenging time to create an arrangement that not only benefits everyone involved, but ultimately, ensures that everyone is safe and healthy.
3. Keep Records Of Changes To Custody Schedule
During this time, it is important to keep track of any changes made to the custody schedule, as well as track any contact that the child has with the other parent. Make note of any concerns you have about the arrangement or the current custody plan. If you feel that the co-parent is being unreasonable or uncooperative, do not be afraid to clearly and respectfully make your views known in writing. Additionally, during this time, you need to record any missed parenting time that will need to be made up when the pandemic begins to slow down or ends.
4. Be Upfront With The Other Parent About Any Health Concerns
The safety of everyone should be the main priority right now and for the foreseeable future. If any member of either household has come in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19 or is exhibiting symptoms, you should not transfer the child until the individual produces a negative test. Inform your co-parent and medical provider of any health issues you have, especially if related to the child, and make sure that you and your co-parent are taking planned, thought-out actions that are in the best interests of the child and everyone else that is involved.