Whether you are going through a divorce or are going through a custody dispute, it is understandable to wonder about the best way to obtain full custody of your child in St. Louis. Full custody might be your preference, but there are many factors that go into custody decisions.
First and foremost, the court must focus on the best interests of the child when making these decisions. While there are often obstacles in the way of the court finding full custody is in the best interest of the child, our firm could help you pursue the outcome you desire in your custody case.
How Missouri Courts Approach Full Custody in St. Louis
For many years, Missouri courts were known for their all-or-nothing approach to custody decisions. The outcome of many child custody hearings involved one parent receiving full custody and the other parent receiving very little in the way of guaranteed time with their child.
In 2018, the Missouri legislature made important changes to the law that adjusted this winner-take-all approach. Now, state law recognizes that it is in the best interest of the child to have ongoing and frequent contact with both parents. When possible, this means that the courts prefer to award joint custody in most cases.
That does not mean joint custody is guaranteed. There are still times when a court might determine that full custody is what is best for a child. However, the judge must establish that full custody is in the child’s best interest before they can issue that custody order. Fully custody is usually a possibility in cases where the other parent is unable to provide a safe home environment.
Factors The Court Will Consider When Awarding Custody in St. Louis
When a judge decides whether or not to award full custody, they must do so with the child’s best interest in mind. In Missouri, this standard requires the court to consider an array of factors. These factors include:
- The custody preferences of each parent
- The child’s need for a meaningful relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s ability and desire to perform the functions of a parent
- The interactions between the child and parents or siblings
- Whether a parent will allow meaningful contact with the other parent
- The child’s ability to adjust to a parent’s home
- Any history of domestic violence
- The physical and mental health of all related parties
- Any plans to relocate the child
Finally, there are times when the court will take into account the wishes of the minor child when making custody decisions. Judges are not required to take a minor child’s wishes into account in every situation.
Confusingly, state law does not provide a specific age where a minor is allowed to have their wishes taken into account. In most cases, the court will give greater weight to the wishes of an older child compared to a younger child. There are no hard and fast rules regarding the impact a child’s age has, however.
To that end, it is the decision of the court whether or not to weigh the preferences of a minor. The judge has broad discretion in whether to take their preferences into account at all. Should they agree to hear from the minor child, the amount of weight they place on their preferences is also within their discretion.
Call Right Away to Pursue Full Custody in St. Louis
There is never a guarantee that a family law judge in St. Louis will agree to award full custody of a minor child. The preference of each parent is a factor the court will consider, but ultimately a judge must make this decision based on the best interest of the child. If the judge determines shared custody is better for the child, full custody might not be an option.
Our firm could assist you with establishing that full custody is in the best interest of your minor child. If you are ready to pursue full custody of your child, contact the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC today.