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Understanding Child Custody: The Basics

Understanding Child Custody: The Basics

Understanding Child Custody: The Basics

Child custody is one of the most contentious divorce issues. In Missouri, the best interests of the child are the standard that the courts use when deciding custody arrangements, and ideally, this allows for meaningful and frequent contact with both parents. The idea of losing your role as a major guardian in your child’s life is understandably stressful, so when your parental rights are threatened, you need a skilled attorney to protect your future. Your comprehension is an essential part of your case’s success. Understanding Missouri’s child custody laws often allow parents to know what to expect during the process, so call Scott Hamblin for a case review. 

Types of Child Custody

In Missouri, child custody options are relatively standard, as they are grounded in the concepts of “physical custody” and “legal custody.” Legal custody permits a parent to make decisions related to the child’s care, such as education, religious practice and medical care. Physical custody is where the child lives. Both types can be divided into “joint” custody or “sole” custody. Joint legal custody allows both parents to make decisions, while joint physical custody means the child lives with both parents for varying periods of time. If a parent has sole physical or legal custody, it means they are the only one who can make such decisions. 

Missouri’s Child Custody Guidelines

Courts prefer to let the parents negotiate custody arrangements. They may do this on their own, or with an attorney’s assistance. Both parties may submit a parenting plan to the judge for approval. If neither party can settle on an agreement, the court then steps in. Yet there isn’t a universal template used to determine the child’s best interests since every case has a different set of facts. Missouri law provides guidance for the courts to follow, and these factors include: 

  • Each parent’s custody wishes
  • The importance of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • Ability and willingness to complete parental duties
  • The child’s relationships with family members who influence their best interests
  • Which parent is most likely to provide the child with continuous, meaningful time with the other parent
  • Adjustments to school, home and community
  • The physical and mental health of all parties involved
  • History of domestic violence
  • Plans to relocate
  • The child’s own wishes for custody

As you can see, each parent’s relationship with the child isn’t the only important factor. Both parties need to cooperate in order to ensure the final custody arrangements prioritize the child’s wellbeing.

Can a Child Express Preference in a Missouri Child Custody Case?

While the last provision in the custody guidelines states that the child may express their own wishes, Missouri law doesn’t say how old the child needs to be for the judge to favor those preferences. Typically, an older child will have more say than in the case of a younger child, although this is not a set rule. The judge will consider the child’s ability to express their wishes without undue influence by either parent. 

Visit an Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you are concerned about how your child custody will be arranged, Scott Hamblin offers insight. Call for a case evaluation.

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