Get to Know Child Custody Laws in Missouri

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If you're going through a breakup in Missouri and you have minor children, you'll want to understand the state's custody laws. A family court in Missouri uses several factors to determine whether one or both partners win custody.

State courts base custody on the best interests of the child involved and Missouri is no exception. A judge must consider several best interest factors when making a decision. A family court in Missouri will not show preference toward either parent based on gender, financial status, age or the sex of the child. That's good news for parents who weren't necessarily the breadwinners of the family or men who fear that the courts will be biased toward them and automatically assume the mother is the better parent.

The Best Interests of the Child

Factors included in Missouri's best interests standards include: 

  • Each parent's wishes and a proposed parenting plan submitted by the parents, detailing when and how they want to divide time with their child, including important dates and events like holidays and vacations 
  • The child's need for frequent and meaningful contact with both parents, and each parent's willingness to be responsible for the child's needs
  • The child's wishes, if he's considered old enough – usually at least eight years old, but more often age 12 and up
  • Either parent's intention to relocate with the child
  • The child's relationship with his parents, siblings and extended family members
  • Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the child's other parent
  • The child's adjustment to home, school, and community
  • Any history of abuse
  • The mental and physical health of all parties involved

Child Custody Arrangements in Missouri

Missouri courts will consider the following custody arrangements:

  • Joint physical custody and joint legal custody to both parents
  • Joint physical custody to both parents and sole legal custody to one parent
  • Joint legal custody to both parents with sole physical custody to one parent
  • Sole custody to either parent
  • Third party custody or visitation

Physical custody relates to which parent the child resides with most of the time. Joint physical custody is rarely a 50/50 time split, but it affords both parents considerable time with the child, more than if one of them merely had parenting time once a week or so.

Legal custody involves who makes major decisions on behalf of the child, not to be confused with day-to-day decisions like what he eats for dinner and what time he goes to bed. Those decisions fall on the parent with whom he is living at that particular time.

A court in Missouri encourages frequent and continuous contact between the child and both parents as long as it serves the best interests of the child.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Missouri

If a party who is requesting custody of a child has committed an act of domestic violence, the court will ensure that the custody arrangement protects the child, the parent who is the victim of the domestic violence, and any other children the parent has.

Wrapping Up

For more information about child custody in Missouri, speak with an attorney in the state or refer to the Missouri Revised Statutes. Your research and consulting a good lawyer will likely pay off for you in court. If you have any questions or concerns about child custody in the state, be sure to go over them with your attorney. You don't want to regret keeping silent later. Missouri also offers many legal aid offices if you don't feel that you can afford an attorney, but acceptance and representation depend on your documented income and expenses. 

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