Our firm is well aware that fathers historically have not always been treated equitably in Missouri courts when it came to child custody issues. And, although Missouri law was changed over 25 years ago to eliminate the statutory preference that had been given to mothers when it came to custody, the potential for discrimination continues today if an attorney representing a father in a divorce or child custody matter is not thorough and vigilant in representing that dad’s interests.
The two factors that most influence judges in deciding child custody matters are the long-term history of each parent’s involvement with the child, and the custody recommendations of the “Guardian Ad Litem”, an attorney sometimes appointed by the court to represent the interests of the child.
Most judges are keenly interested in learning what each parent does for the child in question, and which parent the child looks to or seeks out when problems arise. They want to know who takes off work when the child is ill, who helps with the homework, who coaches their little league or soccer team, who attends the parent/teacher conferences, who disciplines them and so on and so forth.
Nowadays, both parents usually hold down jobs, and each parent’s working hours also enter into the equation when determining custody schedules.
The most important thing any parent-client can do to strengthen their position in a child custody matter is to be an active, loving and involved parent over the long-term and not just in the weeks and months leading up to trial. But, even if a parent has only recently stepped-up their involvement, that can be an important consideration if the judge is convinced that such efforts are genuine and likely to continue after the issue is settled.
Our Firm Does Everything It Can To Insure That Fathers Obtain the Custody Rights They Deserve
We make sure our clients are well aware of the importance of being there for their children consistently and in all kinds of circumstances, as well as being able to provide documentation of their involvement. Calendar entries, written correspondence with teachers, doctors and others dealing with their child, as well as even testimony from those who have observed first-hand that parent’s involvement, all serve to underscore the dad's importance to the child.
In many child custody disputes, the court appoints a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to make an independent assessment of the child’s situation and his/her relationship with the parents. The GAL will then provide a custody recommendation that many judges are inclined to view as the most objective point-of-view available to them and, thus, are most inclined to follow.
GALs look for the same type of evidence as do judges regarding the long-term relationship between the parent and child. However, we have come learn over our many years in family law that some GALs tend to be biased in favor of moms. When we are representing the dad, we will work toward the appointment of the best qualified GAL available.
In this regard, by dedicating our practice to family law for over 25 years, we offer substantial experience regarding the tendencies of GALs and judges alike in child custody matters.