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Inability to co-parent grounds for sole custody award; Guardian Ad Litem fees assessed to one party appropriate

Recent Case:       Parents’ inability to communicate, cooperate, and make shared decisions concerning their children’s welfare makes joint legal custody inappropriate.

This case involved a motion to change custody from Mother to Father.  The Court ultimately awarded Father sole legal and sole physical custody of the children, subject to periods of visitation to Mother. The trial court found that since the entry of the original parenting plan, a substantial and continuing change has occurred in the circumstances of the children and parents, such that a modification was necessary to serve the children’s best interests. The court found the parties’ inability to communicate, cooperate, and make shared decisions concerning their children’s welfare makes joint legal custody inappropriate. The court noted that a breakdown of parental communication and cooperation is sufficient legally, in and of itself, to constitute a change of circumstances.

Specifically, Mother overtly sabotaged Father’s ability to communicate with the children’s school, teachers and doctor by telling them not to speak with Father, share information about the children with Father and to outright lie to Father. Mother left Father’s information off forms that asked for the children’s father’s information. Mother refused to work together reasonably in advance with Father for alternative times for physical custody during summer vacation, to the extent that the court had to intervene to enforce Father’s summer custody time with his children. Mother also refused to reasonably work together with Father on other occasions to be flexible about visitation time with the children without good cause or adequate excuse. Mother went out of town on at least two trips without the children without giving Father first opportunity for their custody during that time, in direct violation of the original Custody Plan.

Guardian Ad Litem Fees

Missouri law provides for the award and payment of GAL fees in custody cases:

In this case, Father moved for the GAL’s appointment. However, it was due to Mother’s actions that Father and the court deemed appointment of a GAL necessary. The court is permitted to consider the circumstances requiring the appointment of a guardian ad litem in determining the payment of guardian ad litem fees, and in this case, assessed all guardian ad litem fees against the Mother.

Missouri Court of Appeals

Eastern District - ED100282

Filed September 2, 2014

Mark A. Wortman

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Kansas City family law attorney Mark A. Wortman handles only divorce and family law matters, and practices only in the State of Missouri. Due to this specialty, Mark has handled thousands of Missouri divorce and family cases and has practiced extensi… Read More