Family law judges in Missouri and around the country place the welfare of any children involved above all other considerations in a divorce situation, which is why they take petitions filed by divorced parents who claim that their children are in danger very seriously. However, it is not unknown for people who harbor lingering resentment toward their former husbands or wives to make baseless allegations of emotional, physical or even sexual abuse.
This is why courts generally conduct thorough investigations into abuse claims before modifying child custody or visitation arrangements. During these investigations, officers from the Department of Social Services may interview family members, neighbors and teachers to determine the veracity of the claims. While the investigation is ongoing, judges may order supervised visitation based on the best interests doctrine. When custodial parents are accused of abuse, the children involved may be temporarily placed in a care facility.
Evidence that could support allegations of child abuse include police reports, medical records and witness accounts. When presented with this kind of evidence, judges will often require the child or children involved to meet with a court-appointed therapist for evaluation. In complex cases, children may be subjected to multiple interviews and therapy sessions.
Attorneys with experience in this area could help concerned parents to take the legal steps involved in modifying child custody and visitation orders, and they may help them to gather evidence that could convince a family law judge that allegations of abuse are genuine. When a divorced parent presents a clear and imminent threat to a custodial parent or their children, attorneys could petition the court to issue an order of protection.