Can a third party get custody or visitation of a child in a divorce or paternity proceeding in Missouri? There is a rebuttable presumption that parents are fit, suitable, and able custodians of their children and that the children’s welfare is best served by awarding their custody to their parents.
A third party seeking custody or visitation, often a grandparent, carries the burden of showing that each parent is unfit, unsuitable or unable to have custody or that the welfare of the children requires it. In addition the third party must prove that being awarded custody or visitation is in the best interest of the children. The statute does not define “welfare” in the context of rebutting the parental presumption. Interestedly enough, it has not been interpreted by the courts as the equivalent of “best interests.”
An experienced family law lawyer can review the facts of matter and best advice the party whether to seek custody, visitation, guardianship or adoption. Each of these resolutions requires different elements to be proven to the Judge. Each also carries with it distinct responsibilities and time constraints that are important considerations. Determining whether to file or what action to bring is an important strategic decision that will have great impact on the lives of the children involved.