Divorce is a legal process that can involve property division, alimony, and child custody -- the most difficult and emotionally charged part of the process. In the best scenarios, parents work together to design a parenting plan. When that fails, child custody may go to the court.
If you're going through a divorce in Missouri and parent minor children, it is important to retain an experienced family law attorney. The Higher Level Legal Law Firm provides sound legal advice about the divorce process generally and child custody specifically. Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today. In the meantime, here is some information on child custody in Missouri.
Determining Child Custody in Missouri
Child custody refers to an arrangement that establishes when and which parent the child resides with and how parents share the rights and responsibilities of making decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. The State courts in Missouri have the authority to make the final decision on child custody arrangements. To do so, a judge considers what is in the best interests of a child.
Missouri law outlines factors that should be considered when determining a child's best interest. The factors that will be taken into account include (but are not limited to):
- Each parent's wishes and a drafted parenting plan submitted by the parents; this plan should detail how they wish to ideally divide the time with their children, and important dates that they wish to see the children, such as specific holidays and vacation
- The child's wishes. There is no specific age in Missouri, the older the child the more weight the child's preference holds.
- The child's need for recurrent and meaningful contact with both parents, and each parent's willingness to be responsible for this need
- Each parent's willingness to encourage the child to maintain a healthy relationship with the other parent
- Each parent's intentions to relocate with a child (if any)
- The child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and extended family members on both sides
- The child's apparent adjustment to home, school, and the community the family currently resides in
- The physical and mental health of both parents involved in a case
- Any history of abuse (whether it is physical, verbal, or emotional) or neglect.
Family courts in Missouri are not to exhibit favorable treatment towards either parent based on financial status, gender, age, the sex of the child, and other characteristics when determining a custody arrangement.
Types of Custody Arrangements in Missouri
In accordance with Missouri child custody law, the court should consider five types of custody arrangements prior to making a decision. These include:
- 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 one parent
- Third party custody or visitation.
The Meaning of the Types of Child Custody
For further clarification, here are a few statutory meanings of the terms child custody terms.
Custody refers to physical and legal rights to a child and can include the following arrangements: joint custody, sole custody, physical custody, legal custody, and third-party custody.
Joint Legal Custody
According to MO Rev. Stat. § 452.375(2), joint legal custody
means that the parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child, and, unless allocated, apportioned, or decreed, the parents shall confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority.
Joint Physical Custody
According to MO Rev. Stat. § 452.375(3), joint physical custody
means an order awarding each of the parents significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents.
According to MO Rev. Stat. § 452.375(4), third-party custody
means a third party designated as a legal and physical custodian pursuant to subdivision (5) of subsection 5 of this section.
When a parent is awarded sole custody, the other parent, known as the non-custodial parent, is given visitation rights that entitle him or her to spend time with his or her child, too. Supervised visitation may be required if the non-custodial parent has been found guilty of specific offenses to the child whereby the child was the victim of that offense, e.g., neglect or abuse.
Missouri Family Law Attorneys
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that are considered by the courts when determining a child custody arrangement in Missouri, which makes predicting an outcome pretty difficult. This is why it's important that you retain an experienced family law attorney who has extensive knowledge and expertise of the state's processes. To ensure that your rights are protected, and your concerns are voiced, contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today at (816) 331-9968 today for a consultation.