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What Are the Child Custody Laws in Missouri?

Like all states, Missouri has an array of child custody laws that apply to the custody of minor children. There are specific factors that a court must consider when awarding custody—or refusing to provide custody rights to a parent.

These custody laws are important, as they could play a major role in determining how your relationship with your child grows in the future. To ensure you give yourself the best opportunity to secure rights as a parent, it is important to seek out legal counsel right away.

The J. Rench Law Firm, LLC is proud to advocate on behalf of parents during custody disputes. If you have questions about child custody laws in Missouri, we have the answers. Reach out right away for a free consultation to learn about your options.

Types of Custody in Missouri

There are different types of custody awarded by Missouri courts. When a judge determines custody issues, they must address both legal and physical custody of a child. Additionally, a custody award could be in favor of a single parent, or it could guarantee rights for both parents.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

The distinction between physical and legal custody in Missouri is an important one. When a court determines custody rights, they will award both physical and joint custody. An attorney could help you pursue both types of custody rights.

Physical custody is the right to have your children live with you. If you have physical custody of your children, it is up to you where they live and who they visit. Typically, a child will live full-time with a parent that has physical custody.

Legal custody is different in that it relates to decisions regarding the life of a minor child. A parent that has legal custody makes these decisions, which could include determining their medical care, religious upbringing, and education, among other things.

Joint vs. Sole Custody

There are more decisions a court must make outside of awarding physical and legal custody. A judge must also determine whether to award joint or sole custody of a minor child as well. A judge could award joint or sole physical or legal custody.

Sole custody—as the name suggests—involves the court awarding one parent custody of the minor child. Sole physical custody means a child only lives with one parent. Sole legal custody means that parent makes all of the important decisions regarding the child’s life on their own.

Joint custody means that the parents share custody of their children. The courts typically prefer for parents to have joint custody whenever possible. Of course, there are times when joint custody is not in the best interest of the child.

The Best Interest of the Child

The courts are required to follow a strict standard when awarding custody. This standard is referred to as the “best interest of the child.” Ultimately, a judge must award custody based on the child’s best interests—even if the parents both disagree with that decision.

There are different factors a judge must take into account when identifying a child’s best interest. While the wishes of each parent is a factor, it is only one of the things the court must consider. A judge will look at the relationship between the child and each parent, as well as the fitness of both parents. If a child is old enough, a judge will also listen to the wishes of the child. A judge must then take all of these factors into account and award custody using their best judgment.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Child Custody Questions in Missouri

You have rights as a parent, but those rights are not unlimited. A judge must consider your wishes when it comes to the custody of your children, but they are bound to act in the child’s best interest.

An attorney could help make it clear to the court that you having custody is in the best interest of the child. To learn more about how the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC could help protect your rights, reach out for an initial consultation.

Related Content: A Child Custody Lawyer Answers: Who Has Legal Custody of a Child when the Parents Are Not Married in St. Louis?


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