03. Family Law
When a couple breaks up, the state usually needs to be involved to mediate at least some of the issues, which can include child custody, paternity, support, property division, and, of course, divorce.
Bearden Law’s approach is to work with the other side as much as possible to limit the destruction that an all-out legal war can bring, especially when children are involved. Ideally, we work with you and the other side to find out what you can agree on before bringing the rest to the judge. If the other side refuses to be reasonable, we’ll help you hold them accountable, but in most cases, a healthy co-parenting relationship can be forged during the break up. Contrary to the belief of some, most judges are not interested in who can make the other party look worst, but want to know how they can best address the interests of the children. Our approach is not just compassionate, it's the surest way to win.
When children are involved, the courts consider several factors to determine how to award custody. The general rule is that unless there is a compelling reason why a parent should not have custody, such as abuse or substance use, the courts start from the assumption that children benefit from the care of both parents. In most cases, the parents will split parenting time and support responsibilities. Careful attention and well reasoned presentation to the court of the concerns you foresee can help with a parenting plan and judgment that create clean, defined boundaries to help you work with the other person to rear your children between two households.
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
- II Timothy 2 : 24 - 26
In the Best Interest of the Children
Missouri law offers several tools we can use to help you alter the structure of your family or to legally enforce the reality of your situation.
Paternity actions can be necessary when the father is not on the birth certificate but wants to assert his responsibilities or in cases when the specific fatherhood of a child is unknown. In some cases, we file a paternity action even when the father is on the birth certificate to ensure that the court can address the issue where no previous court determination has been made. There are also ways to have a man who is not the father removed from a birth certificate in specific cases.
Custody actions create an enforceable framework and structure for co-parenting, especially in cases where one parent is refusing to allow the other to be a part of a child’s life. A parent that does what is necessary to include the other in a child’s life is viewed much more favorably by Missouri courts than a parent who excludes the other.
Missouri law allows a couple of different avenues for a parent seeking to enforce the obligation of the other to help support their child. One is to work through the Missouri Department of Social Services, and the other is to file an action in the county where the children have been living. Once a child support order is in place it can be modified if the circumstances change. Spousal support is also available in certain cases of divorce, but can’t be modified, only ended.
In cases where no parent is fit, willing, and able to take care of a child, a third party or the state can initiate an action that can end with a guardianship. This is usually a temporary measure to see to the care of a child until the parents can fix the problem and take back custody of the child. It can also be a step toward adoption in certain circumstances.
Adoption is when someone becomes for all legal purposes the parent of someone. In order for this to happen, the rights of the parent they are replacing must be legally terminated. Taking over as the parent of a child is a big responsibility but also a great joy.