St. Louis Divorce Lawyers

How Is Child Custody Determined in Missouri?

When it comes to divorce in Missouri, child custody is determined by considering what is in the best interests of the child.

parent holding child's hand

If you are considering whether or not you should stay in a marriage, sometimes the biggest factor is child custody. When it comes to divorce in Missouri, child custody is determined by considering what is in the best interests of the child.

A judge who is determining which spouse gets custody of a child or children must make decision-based factors like financial situations. They must also take everything else into consideration to ensure that the best interests of the child are being met.

How Do Judges Determine the Best Interests of the Child?

When you go before the judge to finalize your divorce agreement, you will have to agree on something called the parenting plan. It is submitted by two parents and it is a detailed agreement of who has the children at what times (including holidays and vacations).

Although presented to the court, the judge can make a different final determination. This determination is based on several factors, a few of which are listed below.

  • The need for a child to have regular and frequent visitations with the parents
  • Who will have ultimate responsibility for decision-making when it comes to the child
  • The opinion of the child if they are over the age of eight
  • Keeping the child in a familiar location
  • The child’s relationship is not just with the parents and extended family members
  • The child’s relationship with other children in the house as well as siblings
  • How deeply rooted the child is in the community
  • History of neglect or abuse
  • How custody might affect their physical or emotional well-being

Once these factors have all been examined closely, a judge will make the final decision. The typical decision includes the custody rulings listed below.

  • Joint physical custody to two parents
  • Sole legal custody to just one parent and joint physical custody to two parents
  • Joint legal custody is given to two parents and sole physical custody to just one parent
  • Sole custody granted to either of the parents
  • A third party granted visitation rights or custody

The ideal situation is for a child to have equal time with two well-adjusted parents, but, unfortunately, that is not always possible. If there is a question about custody or concerns related to it, it is a good idea to have a divorce lawyer involved to try to negotiate a custody agreement that both parties will be satisfied with.

What If the Parents Don’t Agree?

If the parents are not able to agree to a parenting plan, then the custody of the child will generally be in the hands of the court.

When it comes to children and divorce, an amicable settlement is always the healthiest for everyone involved. Since that is not always possible, it is best to discuss your unique set of circumstances with your St. Louis divorce attorney. For a FREE 30 minutes phone consultation, call the Betz Law Firm today at (314) 801-8488.