family law attorney missouriIf you are a divorcing parent, your biggest concern is protecting your children as much as possible from the upheaval of the separation. If you are able to work with your spouse to put your children’s needs first, you can probably reach a custody and support agreement without court intervention. But if that is not possible, it is important that you hire a family law attorney who will help you ensure that your custody and child support agreements are in your children’s best interests.

Types of Child Custody in Missouri

When divorcing with children in Missouri, you will have to make decisions regarding two basic types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to who the child lives with. Legal custody grants parents the right to make decisions about the child regarding medical care, education, and general welfare. Parents can be granted either sole or joint physical and legal custody.

  • Sole custody. If one parent is granted sole physical custody, the children will live with that parent 100 percent of the time. Likewise, sole legal custody means that all major decisions will be made by that parent, with no input required from the other parent. In cases of sole physical custody, the other parent may be granted visitation rights, which could be supervised or unsupervised. Sole physical and/or legal custody is usually granted when there is evidence that the other parent is abusive, neglectful, irresponsible, or otherwise incapable of providing adequate care. 
  • Joint custody. Most divorcing parents seek joint physical and legal custody of their children. The parenting plan will spell out how much time the children will spend with each parent. Sometimes, a 50/50 arrangement is possible, and other times, one parent is the primary custodial parent and the other has the children for a limited amount of time, such as every other weekend and some holidays. If parents have joint legal custody, they will have to make legal and medical decisions about the children together.

There are almost as many possibilities for joint custody arrangements as there are divorced families. Our family law team will help you find creative solutions that meet your children’s needs, as well as your own. If you are unable to reach an agreement amicably with your spouse, we can step in to help, whether through mediation or in court.

Problems With Child Support Require Legal Guidance

Missouri’s Family Support Division calculates child support payments based on the adjusted gross income of each parent, the financial needs of the children, and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. Generally, the parent who earns more will make child support payments to the parent who earns less.

As straightforward as this process should be, problems arise when one parent is dishonest about their income or insists on sharing physical custody—despite being unable to provide adequate care—to lower what they owe in child support. If you are the one ordered to pay child support and you suspect that your ex is intentionally underemployed in order to get more money from you, our team can help you protect your rights.

Calculating child support that provides children with what they need and is fair to both parents can be a complicated matter. It is important that you have an experienced child support lawyer advocating for you with the court.

Modifying Existing Custody and Support Agreements

Child custody and support agreements are not set in stone. As circumstances change, these agreements often have to be modified. If your ex is not living up to their side of the agreement or other situations have arisen that make the original agreement unworkable, we can help you modify the parenting plan, custody agreement, or child support order to better protect you and your children.

Contact Our Family Law Attorneys Today

From our Cape Girardeau and Perryville offices, the team at Layton & Southard serves clients throughout Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Please contact us online or call our Cape Girardeau office directly at 573.335.3359 to schedule your initial consultation.

Stephen R. Southard
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