One of the most painful aspects of many divorces in Missouri has been the traditional assumptions that one parent, often the father, really does not need to spend much time with their children. A couple could granted joint custody and a father could still wind up being awarded a few hours on a weeknight and every other weekend.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed House Bill 1550 into law, which will help promote more shared custody and visitation agreements between divorcing parents. The goal of the law is to ensure that fathers are not cut out of the parenting process by unfair and out-of-date custody or visitation agreements.
A bill has been passed by the Missouri legislature and is awaiting action by the governor that would require that family court judges in the state begin child custody actions with the presumption that if the parents cannot agree, a shared parenting plan with equal time between parents will be the default plan.
It is understandable that you may be intimidated by the prospect of seeking court intervention to have your rights to custody and parenting time recognized. After all, you may think that there is an inherent bias against men in family court. While some unscrupulous moms may want you to believe this myth, it is simply not true. As a father, you do have rights when it comes to making parenting decisions. With unmarried fathers, however, there is a specific process that must be followed to have these rights recognized.
In Missouri, it could happen. It has happened. A man is dealing with just that circumstance after he found out that his daughter, who is only three-years-old, was adopted by the girl's maternal great-grandparents. In most cases, a father would have a right to object to such a transaction, but because he lacked legal documentation of his paternity, it was possible for the mother to set up the adoption without his knowledge or consent.
Court proceedings are often confusing to participants. Family law cases involve very specific factual situations that often bring with them very strong feelings. For those involved, it can be difficult to separate the emotional from the legal and they may wind up being frustrated or disappointed in the outcome.
In the United States, the custody situation has improved. Slowly, family law courts in Missouri are growing accustomed to the prospect of father's sharing equal rights with mothers after a divorce. While many judges still may have a bias towards mothers when it comes to child custody awards, and fathers have to aggressively assert their rights, the tide is beginning to shift.
It takes two people to create a child. It shouldn't be as shocking as it is to say, therefore, that it often takes two people (at least) to raise a child. Too often in family law cases, one parent is left out of the equation of raising a child. Fathers deserve every chance to play a role in their children's lives.