Modifying child custody based on sexual abuse by siblings

mens divorce lawyer William BackerQuestion:

My daughter is being sexually abused by her half-brother. The Division of Family Services is aware of this and simply had the mother sign an agreement that requires her to never leave the two of them alone together.

How safe can this be? My only concern is for the safety of my daughter, but I don’t know what to do to get her out of this situation.


You should consult with an attorney that is experienced in domestic litigation cases. Your question does not specify whether you and the mother of your child are married, or were ever married, or if there is a divorce, or other any other type of court order establishing custody of your daughter.

If there is an existing court order concerning custody, you should consult with an attorney about filing a motion to modify that order.

In Missouri where I practice, RSMO 452.410.1 provides that in order to change a custody determination, there must be a substantial and continuing change in circumstances such that modification is necessary to serve the best interest of the child based on facts that have occurred since the prior decree or were unknown at that time.

If these instances of sexual abuse can be proven to the court, they will be a major factor in the custody determination.

If there is not an existing court order establishing custody, a court order needs to be established and you may have to establish paternity first. If you are an unwed father, you must establish paternity to at least prove you are the child’s father. Read this article on how to establish paternity.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers in 19 states. I urge you to contact one as I do not know all the details of your case and thus cannot provide you with specific legal advice.


William F. Backer is an Associate Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell where he practices domestic relations exclusively. Mr. Backer is licensed in the State of Missouri. Mr. Backer received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, with emphasis in Accounting, from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He then went on to receive his Juris Doctor from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1999.

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