Child Custody Laws

Child Custody Laws


After a divorce, Missouri couples must come to a custody agreement that determines which parent will have the children. The courts have the authority to award sole, joint or split custody in cases where both parents are involved.

The decision to award physical custody and legal custody of a child comes down to one key family law principle: the best interests of the child. Often, however, the court will also consider other factors, such as the wishes of the child.

Sole Legal Custody

Sole legal custody, sometimes referred to as full custody, gives one parent the authority to make major decisions for the child. This can include education, health care, religion, and other important matters.

However, a judge is not required to award sole custody in every case. Courts generally grant joint legal custody in the overwhelming majority of cases.

In Missouri, the law favors sharing legal and physical custody of children as often as possible. This is typically done through a parenting plan, which addresses both legal and physical custody issues in detail.

When parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, they can petition the court for a custody order. A parenting plan is a detailed document that outlines visitation rights and time, support payments, and other factors.

Custody determinations are made by courts based on what is best for the child. They also take into account the wishes of the child.

Joint Legal Custody

If the court orders joint legal custody, the parents share rights, authority, and responsibilities concerning the child’s welfare, health, and education.

When determining custody, Missouri courts consider many factors and presumptions. Some of these factors are statutory, while others are discretionary.

Custody law also considers the mental and physical health of either parent, including whether there is a history of domestic violence toward the other.

As a result, joint legal custody is more likely to be awarded in cases where both parents are willing to cooperate and work together.

However, a judge may award sole legal custody to one parent where they believe that is in the best interests of the child. This can happen if there is a lack of cooperation or if one parent has significant emotional problems that prevent them from making sound decisions.

Joint Physical Custody

Missouri child custody laws state that courts may not give preference to one parent over the other because of their age, sex or financial status. However, many people still feel like the courts favor mothers over fathers in awarding physical custody of children.

The court system in Missouri believes that it is in a child’s best interests to have equal time with each parent. Therefore, it will almost always lean towards 50/50 custody rights.

If a court awards joint physical custody, it generally requires that the parents create a parenting plan that addresses the other issues involved in the case. This may include a schedule for visitation, school and medical appointments, and support.

A parenting plan is designed to encourage frequent, continuing and meaningful contact between a child and both parents after divorce or separation. It also strives to avoid too much time between the child and one parent, unless there is some reason to do so.

Sole Physical Custody

When a court awards custody, it is looking to ensure that the child’s best interests are served. This includes deciding which parent will have physical and legal custody of the child, as well as how the parents will share time with the child.

Missouri law states that courts must give preference to the child’s best interest when determining what custody rights and parenting time should be awarded to the parents. However, courts may not give a preference to one parent over another because of their age, sex or financial status.

In order to receive custody of a child, a parent must show the court that the other parent is not able to care for the child in a safe and appropriate manner. This may include a showing that the other parent has abused or neglected the child.

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