A new law in Missouri now requires judges to establish more equal custody times between parents. The law requires the Missouri court administrator to develop statewide guidelines for judges “in order to maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent.” This is a departure from past court practice, which commonly resulted in fathers receiving every other weekend and one day a week. The older law only required judges to establish “significant, but not necessarily equal” time with both parents.
It’s not just Missouri – the trend of fathers facing prejudice in custody court is a nationwide issue. But the new law is a sign of a rising change that has been taking place over the past several years. Traditionally, it was assumed children needed one primary residence and one main caregiver in order to thrive, but research indicates that parental involvement by both the mother and father is actually more vital to healthy child development. Some would argue that the bias against fathers in court no longer exists, but there is plenty of evidence on both sides of that debate.
All that said, the take-away is this: despite the possibly changing tide, before letting a judge decide how much time you will get to spend with your children, you should always* try to negotiate the terms of your own agreement with the help of an experienced family lawyer.
*(obviously this does not apply to families affected by domestic violence, substance abuse or mental health issues etc.)
This is not to say that judges don’t do the very best they can to determine what is best for children – they do, without question. But the benefits of negotiating your own terms are undeniable. You retain control over every issue, from how many days your children live with you to where they attend school or spend the holidays. Every family situation is different, and you and the other parent are in the best position to know what will be best for your children.
At Hinson Family Law, I help families negotiate the terms of custody agreements every day. If you have any questions about custody agreements, separation agreements, or anything else related to your family’s legal needs, please do not hesitate to contact me at (336) 252-2933.