In a potentially significant move in Missouri, HB 1550 has passed the Missouri House and Senate. The bill now sits on the desk of Governor Jeremiah Nixon. If Governor Nixon signs this bill, this would move Missouri further toward making shared parenting the norm in multiple ways.
Missouri already has a preference for shared parenting. RSMO 452.0375 states: “The general assembly finds and declares that it is the public policy of this state that frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage is in the best interest of the child, except for cases where the court specifically finds that such contact is not in the best interest of the child…”
However, this new legislation would move Missouri even further in the direction of shared parenting if it is signed by Governor Nixon. Some of the key facets of the proposed legislation include:
- Creates guidelines for parenting plans that “maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent;”
- Requires courts to disclose why shared parenting wasn’t awarded if another arrangement is ordered;
- Requires courts to provide written findings and conclusions in a custody case, which makes the case appealable if a party disagrees with judgment.
- Specifies that courts can’t “presume that a parent, solely because of his or her sex, is more qualified than the other parent;”
- Prohibits local courts from establishing their own rules, such as having a default-parenting plan.
- Requires this language in custody judgments after August 28, 2016: “In the event of noncompliance with this order, the aggrieved party may file a verified motion for contempt. If custody, visitation, or third-party custody is denied or interfered with by a parent or third party without good cause, the aggrieved person may file a family access motion with the court stating the specific facts that constitute a violation of the custody provisions of the judgment of dissolution, legal separation, or judgment of paternity. The circuit clerk will provide the aggrieved party with an explanation of the procedures for filing a family access motion and a simple form for use in filing the family access motion. A family access motion does not require the assistance of legal counsel to prepare and file.”
To read the entire proposed legislation, you can do so here at the following link. It is important to note was well that for unmarried fathers, they will still need to file a paternity case to establish an enforceable visitation schedule. However, this statute, if signed into law, would nonetheless have a significant impact on Missouri child custody determinations.
While the new required language referenced above indicates that a party does not need an attorney to prepare and file a family access motion, having an attorney is still advisable in most instances. Among other reasons, this is because the other parent could ultimately hire an attorney, which would put the party without an attorney at a disadvantage –particularly if the matter results in an evidentiary hearing.
If you are going through a child custody matter in Missouri of Illinois, Stange Law Firm, PC can help. You can reach us at 1-855-805-0595.