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Missouri bill looks to give fathers more parental rights

A Missouri state representative has recently proposed a bill that would make some fathers eligible for expedited hearings in cases related to custody or visitation rights. If the bill passes, men who have a judgment of paternity, which is a legal finding that states a man is a child's father, would be allowed to request fast-tracked hearings when a violation of a child custody agreement is alleged. Currently, these are only available if the parents in question have divorced or separated.

The representative who proposed the legislation stated that it is not intended to diminish the importance of marriage as an institution. Instead, he states, it is in response to changes in the way that children are raised today since many unmarried people now raise children together.

The Missouri Supreme Court has already stated that state courts cannot treat unmarried parents in a manner that is different from those who are married in regard to family law matters. According to a 2007 ruling, the court found that both married and natural fathers should be given the "same presumption of fitness in parental termination proceedings."

While most divorces are already difficult, divorces where children are involved can be exceptionally challenging. Parents going through a divorce or splitting up want to shield their children as much as possible from the process, but they also want to make sure that their children stay in a safe environment. For this reason, parents who are concerned about custody and visitation rights may benefit from speaking with a capable child custody attorney. The attorney may be able to help them protect their parental rights and ensure that their children are being taken care of as well.

Source: News Leader, "Bill targets custody disputes," Kevin Austin, Feb. 22, 2013