As should be the case when parents are separating or divorcing, it is public policy in Missouri that frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child.
Both parents are encouraged to participate in decisions affecting the health, education and welfare of their children. As a result, it is generally difficult to obtain sole legal custody or sole physical custody today. The evidence must be overwhelmingly in favor of one parent for such an award; however, all parents facing a custody battle should be aware of the factors the Court will look at in making a custody determination.
Factors the Court Will Consider in Awarding Child Custody:
- The wishes of both parents;
- The child’s need for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents, and the ability and willingness of each parent to perform their functions as parents;
- The relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other significant person;
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
- The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;
- The intention of either parent to relocate the residence of the child; and
- The wishes of the child as to the child’s custodian.
The Court can also look at other factors, including: home environment, stability, parenting skills, moral fitness, adultery and sexual misconduct, cohabitation, drug and alcohol abuse, attempted alienation of the child, and religious beliefs. Courts will not look at a parent’s religious beliefs without a very good reason and only when there is a concern for the best interests of the child.
Five Types of Custody Awards in Missouri:
- Joint physical and joint legal custody to both parents;
- Joint physical custody with one party granted sole legal custody;
- Joint legal custody with one party granted sole physical custody;
- Sole physical and sole legal custody to either parent; and
- Third-party custody or visitation.
Joint legal custody means that both parents make decisions about the health, education, and welfare, and that the parents consult with one another with regard to those decisions.
Sole legal custody means that one parent makes the decisions about health, education, and welfare. The parent without legal custody is still consulted about those decisions and still has access to all of the child’s records and information including medical, dental and school records.
Joint physical custody means that each parent has significant, but not necessarily equal, time with the child. The child has frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents.
Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent. The other parent may have reasonable visitation rights which may or may not be supervised.
Third-party custody means that custody is awarded to someone other than the parents. For the Court to do this, both parents must be unfit or unable to care for the children.
Parents aren’t the only ones who can obtain custody or visitation rights in Missouri. The Court may also grant reasonable visitation rights to the grandparents under the following circumstances:
- When the parents of the child have filed for a divorce, grandparents have the right to intervene (be a party) in the case with regard to visitation;
- One parent of the child is deceased and the surviving parent denies reasonable visitation to the parent of the deceased parent of the child;
- The child has resided in the grandparent’s home for at least 6 months within the previous 24 month period;
- A grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation with the child for a period exceeding 90 days, unless the natural parents are legally married to each other and are living together with the child. In this case, the grandparent may not file for visitation; or
- The child is adopted by a stepparent, another grandparent, or another blood relative.
If you still have questions about child custody in Missouri or would like more information on how you can obtain custody or visitation rights, contact us today to set up a confidential consultation with one of our child custody attorneys.