Missoula Child Custody Lawyers

When parents separate or get a divorce, their children are affected in many different ways. There are some factors to consider when determining child custody in Montana. A Missoula child custody lawyer can help determine if specific factors will have a role in determining child custody in the state of Montana.

In Montana, Child Custody laws are referred to as Parenting, and comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, while also allowing Grandparent Rights and joint custody. Montana state laws use the term “parenting” in order to promote the idea that both parents should be involved in their children’s lives. During the process for Divorce, unless both parents can agree on a custody plan, the court will determine the terms of your Parenting Plan.

Determining child custody is an important part of the Separation or Divorce process for parents. Both legal and physical custody will be determined, and these will be granted on a sole or joint basis. A parent with legal custody will have the right to make major decisions about the child’s life such as education and health care. A parent with physical custody means that the child lives full or part-time with that parent, and the parent has the right to make decisions dealing with the daily routine of the child. A sole custody arrangement gives only one parent legal and/or physical rights and responsibilities, while a joint custody arrangement gives both parents shared rights and responsibilities.

The child custody attorneys at Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law are equally comfortable in achieving your child custody goals through either child custody Mediation or child custody litigation in any Montana court. As parents, you can rely on the experience of the Montana Family Law attorneys at Jones & Cook in obtaining child custody judgments. We fight hard to make the system work for our clients. We understand that it is often in the best interests of the child for the parents to come to an amicable agreement regarding custody or visitation. Missoula child custody attorney Bradley J. Jones will guide you through this tough process in a satisfactory manner. Contact us today at (406) 543-3800 for a Free Consultation.

Looking out for your Family’s Best Interests

We excel at resolving complex custody disputes

Our experienced lawyers handle custody and visitation matters in connection with divorces, legal separations, annulments, abuse prevention, and many more family law actions. We have a successful track record in settling and litigating legally complex, high-conflict matters, such as:
Child Support Determinations
Custody Evaluations
Paternity Actions and DNA Testing

We diligently work toward favorable outcomes for our clients, prioritizing your children’s needs and interests.

Understanding Montana Custody Law

Montana courts pride themselves on making decisions in the best interests of the child. During Dissolution of Marriage proceedings where children are involved, the following are considered in the determination of Child Custody:

Emotional Needs

The court will look closely at not only your children’s physical environment but also the quality of your relationship with your children. Montana courts favor arrangements that maintain continuity and stability. Sibling relationships are also taken into consideration. In most cases, the ultimate wishes of the child are given notice by the court.

Financial Support

Parents who show a history of failing to financially support their children will have that weigh negatively against them by the court, as it will be considered to have acted against the child’s best interest. However, the failure of a parent to pay Child Support does not void the terms of a Parenting Plan.

Health and Safety

A parent who has been convicted of a violent crime, child endangerment or a sex crime will either have their Child Visitation suspended or be required to undergo Supervised Visitations. The mental and physical health of you, your spouse and your children will also be under consideration by the court, this includes and substance abuse or dependency.

Parenting Plans

Montana courts prefer parents work together to agree on a parenting plan rather than asking the court to intervene. Montana law requires parents involved in Divorce or Separation proceedings to submit proposed Parenting Plans either jointly or individually. Please see our dedicated section on Parenting Plans for more information.

Vexatious Court Actions

Vexatious actions refer to a person who brings a legal action against another for the purpose of annoying that person. In Child Custody proceedings, parents who abuse the legal system by continuously requesting changes to a Parenting Plan run the risk of being seen as behaving in a manner in their child’s best interest.

Contact Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law

Our Montana Family Law attorneys have the experience to make sure that your rights and needs are addressed during the child custody process. To discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer, schedule your initial consultation today by calling (406) 543-3800.

Types of Child Custody

There are two basic types of child custody in Montana, and each comes in two forms.

Legal Custody

A parent is said to have legal custody of a child when that parent makes the important decisions in the child’s life. Some of those decisions include education, religion, and medical care. It is common for parents to share legal custody. In this case, the parents will have to discuss decisions about these issues, although one may have the final say.

Physical Custody

When a child lives with a parent, that parent has Physical Custody. Although Shared Physical Custody was once popular, a more common approach today is for one parent to have the child during the week, and the other parent watches the child during the weekend.

Sole and Joint Custody

When only one parent has a type of custody, it is called Sole Custody. When both parents share custody, it is called Joint Custody.

Supervised Parenting Time

In some cases, it’s not appropriate or in the child’s best interest to spend time alone with a parent. If a parent has a history of domestic violence, alcohol or drug addiction, or is otherwise unable to care for the child, the court may deny visitation to the noncustodial parent or order supervised parenting time. Supervised parenting usually takes place in a court-approved location and in the presence of a neutral third-party who can observe visits and ensure the child’s safety.

Legal Guardianship

Legal guardianship allows a person, such as a grandparent, to care for a minor child and make decisions on their behalf. The laws governing guardianships vary between states, but in most jurisdictions, you need a file a petition with the court to obtain legal guardianship of your minor grandchild.

Planned Guardianships

If you were named you in writing as a guardian in the event of death or incapacitation, the court may question your ability to care for the child due to age, heath or financial circumstances.

Dependency Cases

In cases where the parents have abused, neglected or abandoned their child, the court may appoint a temporary or permanent guardian. The court may impose a stricter standard on you than in other types of guardianship arrangements.

Voluntary Guardianships

If a parent is not able to care for their child they may set up a voluntary guardianship arrangement. Both parents must consent in writing to grant you guardianship, and you run the risk of one parent not agreeing to give you guardianship.

Contested Guardianships

In all types of guardianship situations, extended family members may step in and challenge your request to care for the child.

If you are involved in a guardianship case it is highly advisable that you retain counsel. Given the complexity of dependency proceedings, having the support and guidance of an expert family law attorney can be invaluable. Call Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law for a Free Consultation(406) 543-3800.

Grandparents Rights

In Montana, grandparents can petition the Court for visitation rights with their grandchild, even if the child’s parents object. When a situation arises where decisions need to be made on behalf of the child, and in their best in interests, it may be required that the Court intervene to ensure the best outcome.

Montana grandparents seeking a Court to order for contact with their grandchild, must first have a judge determine if the parent is fit. If the parent is unfit, then the contact must just be in the best interests of the child. If the parent is fit, the grandparent must show that the visits are in the child’s best interests while at the same time prove why the objections of the parent are unfounded.

If you are a grandparent who is being denied visitation with your grandchild, contact Montana family lawyer Bradley J. Jones to learn more about your rights. The best way to know what your rights are as a grandparent in Montana is to discuss the situation with a local lawyer. Contact our Missoula office for your Free Consultation by calling (406) 543-3800 .

Parental Relocation

In a Child Custody dispute, there are many reasons that the custodial parent may want to relocate. A parent might need to move-away for career advancement, family support, educational opportunities and other legitimate justifications. When a parent relocates, the move can adversely impact the custody time or visitation of the parent left behind. Under these circumstances parents generally can either enter into an agreement permitting the relocation or petition the court to approve the parent be allowed to move away.

Because parental relocation cases have a fundamental impact on custody and visitation, these cases often are among the most contentious custody disputes. Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law has developed a reputation among judges, peers and clients for innovative family law solutions and effective representation of our client interests. For a Free Consultation, call us at (406) 543-3800.

Knowledgeable Counsel and Effective Representation

At Jones & Cook Attorneys at Law, we effectively counsels parents to agree upon child custody arrangements that serve their children’s best interests. We also provide comprehensive trial experience in contested child custody cases. We will advise you through the Mediation process, work toward a fair and equitable custody agreement, and, if litigation becomes necessary, aggressively represent you at trial, with compassion for you and your children at the forefront of our minds.

Our legal team can also help you resolve other aspects of custody and visitation, including Parental Relocation cases; modification of custody orders; establishment or modification of Parenting Plans; establishment, enforcement or modification of visitation rights; and multi-state and international custody disputes. Our Montana Family Law firm has years of experience handling custody and visitation matters, empowering us with the requisite insight, expertise, and care necessary to represent you in a way that protects your child’s best interests. Call (406) 543-3800 to schedule your Free Consultation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Divorcing parents must file a parenting plan with the court. If parents cannot decide how to resolve a specific issue, the court will make a determination based on the child’s “best interests.”

A custody lawyer will advocate for you in mediation and disputes involving your children, including: becoming the primary caregiver of after a separation or divorce; guide you through paperwork; represent you in court; negotiate child support.

Yes. If you recently went through a divorce or separation, a child custody attorney is necessary if your family lawyer has no child custody experience.

In the past, most states provided that custody of children of “tender years” (about five and under) had to be awarded to the mother when parents divorced. In most states, this rule has either been rejected entirely or relegated to the role of tie-breaker if two otherwise fit parents request custody of their preschool children. No state now requires that a child be awarded to the mother without regard to the fitness of both parents. Most states require their courts to determine custody on the basis of what’s in the children’s best interests, without regard to the parent’s gender.

No. Courts frequently award at least partial custody to both parents, called “joint custody.” Joint custody takes one of three forms: Joint physical custody – children spend a substantial amount of time with each parent; joint legal custody – parents share decision-making on medical, educational, and religious questions involving the children; or
both joint legal and joint physical custody.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for a court to consider race when a noncustodial parent petitions for a change of custody.

A parent who has “physical custody” of a child has the right to provide day-to-day care for the child. The key aspect of physical custody in most child custody situations is that the child will live with the parent who has physical custody. “Legal custody” gives a parent the right to make long-term decisions about the raising of a child, and key aspects of the child’s welfare — including the child’s education, medical care, dental care, and religious instruction.

When a child’s parents are unmarried, the statutes of most states require that the mother be awarded sole physical custody unless the father takes action to be awarded custody. An unwed father often cannot win custody over a mother who is a good parent, but he will usually take priority over other relatives, foster parents, or prospective adoptive parents. However, the father will likely be entitled to visitation rights with the child.

In deciding who will have custody, the court will consider various factors. The overriding consideration is always the child’s best interests. Often, the main factor is which parent has been the child’s “primary caretaker.” If the children are old enough, the courts will take their preference into account in making a custody decision.

In some cases, people other than a child’s parents may wish to obtain custody — including relatives like grandparents, aunts, uncles, close family friends, or other people who wish to get custody of a child. Some states label such a situation as “non-parental” or “third-party” custody. Other states refer to the third-party’s goal in these situations as seeking “guardianship” of the child, rather than custody.

In Montana, grandparents have a legal right to request reasonable contact with their grandchildren at any time, including before or after one parent’s death, divorce, and/or separation. This right applies to biological or adoptive grandparents and great-grandparents.