We offer video conferencing in lieu of in-person meetings. | Schedule Consultation | COVID Policy

How Is Child Custody Determined in Missouri?

There are few things in life that can be as challenging and contentious as a child custody dispute. This is true for divorcing couples as well as unmarried parents seeking a court order regarding custody. An attorney could help resolve these disputes with as little stress as possible.

Before you go into a child custody hearing, it is important to understand how the decision will ultimately be made. You have rights as a parent when it comes to your child’s custody, but those rights are secondary to the child’s best interest.

If you face the prospect of a child custody dispute, it is important that you seek out legal counsel right away. Having an attorney on your side could ensure that you are treated fairly by the courts. To give yourself the best chance of a fair outcome, reach out to the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC right away.

Understanding the “Best Interests of the Child” Standard

Every state has its own version of the “best interest of the child” standard. Under this legal standard, the court is required to make child custody determinations based on what is best for the minor child—no matter what the preference of the parents might be.

That does not mean a parent has no say in matters of child custody. In fact, the courts prefer if parents can come to an agreement regarding shared parental rights. Some parents are able to reach an agreement on their own, while others might make use of a mediator to come to an agreement both sides will live with.

Whether the parents reach an agreement or not, a judge is not bound by anything outside of a child’s best interests. Even if the parents agree on a custody plan, the court is not obligated to sign off. Instead, a judge will review a variety of factors to determine what is best for a minor child. These factors include:

  • The parents’ desires
  • The importance of a meaningful relationship with each parent
  • The willingness of each party to serve as a parent
  • The interaction between parents and children
  • The likelihood of either parent allowing for frequent visitation
  • The mental health of all parties
  • The fitness of the parents
  • The ability of each parent to provide for their children
  • Plans for either parent to relocate
  • The child’s wishes

Is Legal and Physical Custody Awarded the Same in Missouri

When the courts use the term “custody,” it actually describes to different but important rights for parents. Understanding these types of custody could be beneficial prior to a hearing on the issue. The types of custody available are physical and legal custody. The basis used to determine physical custody is the same as legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to the parent who the child lives with. A parent with sole physical custody will make a home for the child full-time. In other cases, parents with joint custody might share time with the child. A parent could have a child on alternate weekends, and parenting plans often account for school holidays and breaks.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the right to make crucial decisions in the life of the child. A parent that has legal custody makes decisions regarding their religious upbringing, medical care, and education, among other issues.

As is the case with physical custody, parents often share joint legal custody. In those cases, the parents share the right to make these decisions. A parent could have legal custody of a child even if they do not have physical custody.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Child Custody Issues in Missouri

Ultimately, child custody in Missouri is determined by a child’s best interests. This standard is not taken likely by the court, which at times will go against the wishes of both parents in order to rule in a way they think is best for a child.

Child custody disputes can be difficult, but you do not have to face them alone. Reach out to the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC as soon as possible for a free consultation.

Related Content: What are Missouri Child Custody Laws for Traveling Out of State?



Schedule a complementary consultation with divorce lawyer and mediator Jennifer Rench.

Let us help you divorce without war.

Schedule a Free Consultation