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Who Gets Custody of the Children while a Divorce is Pending?

Who Gets Custody of the Children while a Divorce is Pending?

Who Gets Custody of the Children while a Divorce is Pending?

Deciding to divorce is a difficult and emotional process, often made more complex when children are involved. One of the most pressing questions during this time is: Who gets custody of the children while the divorce is pending? Understanding the nuances of Missouri’s family law can make this transitional period less stressful for all involved. This blog aims to shed light on this subject to help you make informed decisions.

Missouri’s Family Law Regarding Custody During Pending Divorce

In Missouri, a parent may request a temporary custody order, sometimes called a “pendente lite” order, which is a temporary custody arrangement to establish a custody schedule for the children to spend time with the parents while the divorce proceedings are ongoing. It’s highly recommended that you consult a family law attorney to help navigate this complex process. Local Court Rules apply as do the Rules of Evidence. 

Factors Considered for Temporary Custody

When establishing temporary custody, the court takes into account several factors:

  1. The Best Interests of the Child: This is the paramount consideration for the court. There are eight factors that a court considers in determining the best interest of the child. 
  2. Parent’s Wishes: The court considers the wishes of the parents in determining a child custody schedule.
  3. Parenting Plan: Parents are often encouraged to submit a parenting plan that outlines how they would share responsibilities.
  4. Co-Parenting: The court looks at which parent is more likely to allow the other parent continuing, frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent. 
  5. Stability: The court considers the child’s connection to his home, school and community.
  6. Emotional and financial stability of each parent can be crucial factors.
  7. Child’s Wishes: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their wishes might also be considered, although this is not decisive.
  8. Relocation: Whether either parent intends to move is a factor which the court considers.

Parental Behavior Affecting Custody

Any form of misconduct like substance abuse, neglect, or violence will adversely affect your chances of getting temporary custody. Always remember these temporary orders can set the tone for final custody arrangements, making it imperative to consult a family law attorney.

Can the Temporary Custody Order be Modified?

Once a temporary custody order is in place, modifying it can be challenging, but not impossible. To do so, one must prove a significant change in circumstances and that the modification is in the child’s best interests. Again, professional legal guidance is crucial at this stage and can be sought here.

Remember, temporary custody orders are just that—temporary. They’re put in place to offer a sense of stability and routine for the child while the divorce is being finalized. However, the court may revisit these orders and make changes during the final divorce proceedings. It’s crucial to adhere to temporary orders faithfully, as failing to do so can negatively affect the final custody determination.

Shared vs Sole Custody During Pending Divorce

In many cases, Missouri courts lean toward shared custody arrangements during a pending divorce, allowing both parents to be actively involved in the child’s life. However, in cases where one parent is proven to be unfit or where shared custody is clearly not in the child’s best interests, sole custody may be awarded.


Understanding custody matters during a pending divorce can be challenging, but being well-informed can significantly ease this difficult time. Temporary custody arrangements set the tone for final divorce and custody proceedings, making it essential to consult a family law attorney in Jefferson City who can guide you through this complex process.

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