Trusted. Respected. Knowledgeable.

How is child custody determined in Missouri?

On Behalf of | Apr 16, 2021 | Divorce

Divorce doesn’t just mean the end of your relationship with your spouse. It also means dramatic changes in the relationship that you have with your children. Many parents worry about their custody rights in a divorce, often because they’ve heard some terrible story from someone else.

The fear that you feel about divorce affecting your parent-child relationship is completely normal. However, most custody orders allow both parents to have plenty of time with the children, despite what stories people tell. Understanding how the Missouri family courts handle custody decisions can help you feel more confident about moving forward with the divorce.

The judge has to look at the situation and put the focus on the child

You and your ex have the opportunity to set custody arrangements yourselves. However, doing so requires that you agree on terms, which may not currently be possible for you. In an uncontested filing, you can set every term yourselves, based on your family’s needs.

In contested divorces where the judge is the one making the parenting plan, they have an obligation under Missouri law to look closely at family circumstances. The age of the children, the role each parent has played and even the preferences of the children can affect how the judge rules.

There is a presumption that the best interest of the children, which must be the guiding factor, will involve both parents play an active role. Unless there is evidence of abuse or neglect, neither parent has to worry about the courts shutting them out unfairly.

Your behavior in court and with your ex can influence custody

If you and your ex get into a screaming match in the courtroom, the judge may factor that behavior into their final decision. The same is true of scenarios where one spouse has documentation of the other denying them custody time or trying to alienate them from the children during the separation that followed the divorce filing.

If a judge thinks one parent won’t comply with the court order, they may give the other parent more time. Showing that the children’s needs matter to you and that you want to cooperate with your ex will help show the court that you are a committed parent who deserves their fair share of parenting time.