Missouri presumes that 50/50 custody serves the child’s best interests after a divorce. However, a parent can ask for sole custody when he or she fears that the other parent will put the child in harm’s way.
Review the considerations that influence custody determinations under Missouri law.
Legal vs. physical custody
Legal custody gives parents the ability to make important decisions for the child, like where he or she goes to school or the type of medical care he or she receives. In most cases, parents share legal custody after divorce. Missouri also encourages parents to share physical custody of the child, which is where he or she lives.
Factors in custody determinations
If parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will decide based on the child’s best interests. Among other things, the judge will consider:
- The wishes of each parent
- The wishes of the child, if he or she has the maturity to express a preference
- The current relationship each parent has with the child
- Where each parent lives or plans to live after the divorce
- The willingness of each parent to support a relationship between the child and the other parent
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- Whether either parent has a history of abusive or neglectful behavior
To start the process of determining custody, either parent may submit the state’s Petition for Child Custody and must officially notify the other parent. Then, the other parent has 30 days to respond with his or her own petition. Each parent should include information about his or her preferred custody arrangement. The court will hold a hearing so both parents can present evidence to support their positions.