MissouriChild Custody Law
Missouri Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.
Child custody cases in Missouri can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:
- Where the child lives (physical custody)
- Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
- How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged
This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Missouri court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.
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After a breakup or divorce in Missouri, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.
Some of the factors considered by Missouri in child custody cases include the child's wishes, willingness of the parent to cooperate with their partner and any history of domestic violence.
What Factors Does the Court Consider in Making a Decision for Custody?When the parties have not reached an agreement on custody, the court shall consider the following factors in making a determination:
- 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 address of one of the parents will be designated as the address of the child for the purposes of mailing
If the court determines that each parent is unfit for custody, then custody, temporary custody or visitation will be granted to any other person or persons decided by the court to be suitable and able to provide a healthy environment for the child.
In any case relating to custody of a child, the court shall not award custody or unsupervised visitation of a child to a parent if the parent or any person residing with such parent has been found guilty of, or pled guilty to, offenses or felonies where a child was the victim.
If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Missouri judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".
In the state of Missouri, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Missouri's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Missouri?
Missouri has a list of statutory factors that are considered by the court when determining a custody order. This list may include factors such as the child's age, the living situation of each parent, any history of abuse or neglect from either parent, etc. Although there is a statutory list of factors, consider other factors at its discretion depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
Do judges in the state of Missouri favor joint custody?
Judges in Missouri are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.
Courts in Missouri do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
Do Missouri courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?
Missouri courts favor awarding custody to a cooperative parent who is willing to work together with the other parent regarding child visitation, scheduling, child support, and other co-parenting matters. Missouri law favors co-parenting as being in the best interests of the child, and the courts will favor a parent willing to cooperate over a parent who attempts to alienate their child from the other parent.
Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Missouri?
In Missouri, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.
Do Missouri courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?
Missouri has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.
Do the courts in the state of Missouri have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?
Missouri has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.