Missouri custody laws state the court is required to determine what is in the best interests of the children. There are two considerations to the determination of custody: (1) which parent will have, or how both parents will share, the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child (“legal custody”); and (2) how the parents will share the physical time with the child (“physical custody”).

Missouri custody laws provide that the court is required to consider all relevant factors including:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
  • The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  • The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;
  • The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
  • The wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian.

Custody of the parties’ children will be decided by the court if the parents are otherwise unable to reach an agreement on their own. The court’s custody decision is based on the best interests of the children after receiving testimony and evidence. Even when parents or guardians are able to agree to the custody terms, the court must still determine that the terms are appropriate for the children.

Visitation refers to the time that the non-custodial parent will have with the children. A parenting plan will set forth the routine visitation, holidays, and summers. The fewer ambiguity in the plan, and detailed circumstance “in case” of a dispute, the less chance there is for future conflict.

Missouri child custody laws specifically prevents preference given to either parent in the awarding of custody because of that parent’s sex.

It is important to consult with an attorney to understand how you can properly prepare yourself for arguing your interests in a family law case. Unique advice can bolster your potential outcomes.

Custody orders can be modified if there is a continuing and substantial change in the circumstances of the child or the child’s custodian such that the modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child. The factual distinctions in making this argument warrant review with an attorney so the position can be strongly argued to the Court.