Divorce in the Kansas City, MO area can entail many difficult questions and decisions. Determining child custody can be one of the most difficult parts of divorce for a parent. It’s natural to wonder how your divorce proceedings will play out and how much custody you will obtain. Quite a bit of misinformation circulates about child custody. Because of this misinformation, it’s important to know what the court will consider when making your child custody determination. One question many parents have is whether their children will have a say in their divorce proceedings.

The Court’s Duty

In Missouri and throughout the United States, judges in the family court system have a special professional duty when it comes to the children involved in the cases they oversee. The court must rule in favor of protecting the best interests of children involved in a divorce case or any other family law matter. It does not matter which parent initiated the divorce, but the behavior of both parents will certainly be a primary determining factor in the court’s child custody decision.

Most family court judges in Kansas City, MO aim to ensure the children in a divorce case will have all future needs met and experience minimal disruption to their daily lives. If one parent will retain ownership over the family home and has a greater ability to supervise and provide for the children, that parent might have an advantage during child custody determinations.

Missouri considers any child under the age of 18 as a minor and unable to refuse visitation with a parent. However, in some divorce cases, the judge overseeing the case may wish to hear from a child and will consider what they have to say if the child can present their ideas clearly and understandably.

Keeping the Decision Your Own

It is possible to negotiate child custody privately between you and your co-parent. If you are considering a divorce, collaborating with your ex in divorce mediation may sound extremely difficult. However, it can ultimately save you time and money and ensure your child custody arrangement remains in the hands of you and your ex, not a judge. The two of you will need to negotiate custody terms that ensure your children experience minimal disruption to their everyday life and have all needs consistently met.

Divorce mediation can take as little or as long as you require, and there is no pressure to immediately reach mutual agreement on every facet of your divorce. This is one of the best ways to come up with the most amenable custody arrangement. You and your co-parent will likely wish to consult with your children about the process. This is typically only suitable for older children; very young children are typically swayed one way or another easily and may not fully understand the ramifications of what they might say.

When the Court Considers the Testimony of Children

In some divorce cases, judges decide there is a legitimate need for a child to testify about their experiences. For example:

  • If a divorcing parent alleges domestic violence or child abuse, the court may wish to have the couple’s children on the record to verify the accuracy of such allegations.
  • When a child has a special need or educational requirement, a judge may want to know which parent they feel is most suitable for attending to their unique issue.
  • A judge may allow one or both parents to call a child as a witness in their divorce case, but this is rarely approved and only in extreme circumstances when the specific facts of the case require the child’s testimony.

In the event the court believes a child deserves representation in divorce proceedings, the court may designate a personal representative who will act on the best interests of the child. This guardian ad litem will come into play in any case where domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect has been alleged.

Best Practices Concerning Your Children During Divorce

Parents need to refrain from trying to leverage their children against their other parents during divorce proceedings. Attempting to sway a child one way or another when it comes to child custody can have very serious consequences for the child’s relationships with both of their parents. Unless there is a clear need to protect your child from an abusive, neglectful, or negligent parent, it is best to strive for collaboration and cooperation with your co-parent in negotiating child custody. Children tend to have the best outcomes as adults when they have equal access to both of their parents growing up, so keep this in mind and try to put personal issues aside when it comes to dealing with your ex as your child’s other parent.

Another essential tip to remember is to work closely with your Kansas City, MO divorce attorney to build the strongest custody case possible. An attorney can help you determine when it would be likely for the court to want to hear from your children and assist you in building a strong custody case. In Missouri, the court determines both physical custody and legal custody. While parents that assume legal custody also assume physical custody over their children, these two types of custody may not be exactly proportionate.

For example, the court may consider what a child has to say about your divorce and award 50/50 legal custody to both parents, but more physical custody to one parent than the other. This would mean the parents have equal say concerning major decisions for their kids, but the kids would spend more time with one parent than the other.

Depending on how old your children are, it may be a good idea for you and your spouse to talk with them about your divorce and get to learn their feelings about it. It may be hard for some parents to accept what their children may decide. Ultimately, it is best to take what they have to say seriously and consider their preferences during your divorce negotiations. If you have questions about child custody proceedings or want to know whether your kids are likely to participate in your divorce case, speak with an experienced Kansas City, MO divorce lawyer as soon as possible.