child custody

What you need to learn about filing a petition for child custody.

The Petition for Child Custody (CAFC201) is a petition to use in the special circumstance’s where the requirements for the establishment of paternity have been met under Missouri law but no custody order (Parenting Plan) is in place. A person is presumed to be a parent when a mother and father both sign an Affidavit acknowledging paternity in the hospital at the time the child is born, or a man who believes he is the father of a child files a Declaration of Paternity with the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records. Paternity is established when a court enters a judgment finding that a person is the legal parent of a child. An administrative order of child support, by itself, does not establish paternity.

What is the purpose of a Petition for Child Custody?

A court order for child support may or may not establish custody rights between the parents and the child. A child has a right to frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents, as appropriate, under Missouri law. A court order for custody contains a Parenting Plan that specifically addresses the rights and responsibilities of the parents, as well as parenting time with the child. A court order for parenting time (also called “visitation”) is enforceable by the court.

How do I know if paternity has been established?

A man can be recognized as the father of the child by:

1) Consent: Mother and father both may sign an affidavit acknowledging Paternity in the hospital at the time the child is born; or
2) Declaration of Paternity: A man who believes he is the father of the child can file a Declaration of Paternity with the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records; or
3) Judgment: A judgment entered by a court finding that a man is the legal father of the child.

However, an administrative order for child support is not a court order and, by itself, does not establish custody. When the administrative child support order is approved by a court, it may contain a judicial determination of custody.

You must look at the court order(s) that set child support or otherwise involve the child. If the order makes a determination of paternity (names a legal father), you may use the Petition for Child Custody (CAFC201) if you are named as a parent and there is no court-ordered Parenting Plan (custody order). If you are not sure, you may take your paperwork to Tyler Law Office to discuss your status as a legal parent.

What if there are special circumstances involving the welfare of the child?

In Missouri, the law considers “joint custody” to be in the best interest of the child. If parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, the court selects one parent as the “residential parent” for school and mail purposes. The court decides the role of each parent in decision-making and care of the child (commonly called custody and visitation). “Sole custody” can be ordered when appropriate. The court wants to know about circumstances that affect the best interests of the child. A guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the interests of the child when abuse or neglect is alleged. Parenting time also may be restricted by some circumstances. You should consult Tyler law Office if special circumstances exist. This is very important if there has been domestic violence or concerns about child abuse or neglect.

How can parenting time be enforced after a custody order is entered by the court?

Parenting time is not dependent on the timely payment of child support, although this is another important parenting responsibility. The police generally do not get involved without a court order that spells out parenting time. Even when an order exists, the police are reluctant to make determinations better made by a judge. The parenting time scheduled in the judgment is an enforceable court order. A parent who has been denied court-ordered parenting time may apply for enforcement by filing a family access motion. This process is explained on this website under the Family AccessMotion topic. Some courts have specific programs to monitor exchanges of children according to the parenting time spelled out in the judgment. Contact your local court clerk’s office to determine if a program is available in your area.