Child Custody Laws in Missouri

Child Custody Laws in Missouri

Child Custody Laws in Missouri


Guide to Child Custody Laws in Missouri


Misinformation abounds about the child custody process.  If you are a Missouri parent who is involved in a custody dispute, you should be prepared by knowing the child custody laws in Missouri.  Judges in the state have a wide amount of discretion in determining where a child should live based on the best interest of the child.  This guide can help you to understand the child custody laws in Missouri and give you a starting point for additional research about your child custody dispute.


Myths about Child Custody Laws in Missouri


One of the most pervasive myths about child custody is that custody will only be awarded to a parent based on their sex or how much money they make.  Child custody laws in Missouri actually explicitly prohibit the court from discriminating against either parent based on their sex, their age, or their income level.  While states used to award custody of very young children to mothers, Missouri no longer allows the age or sex of a child to be used to determine custody in any way.


Another myth about child custody laws in Missouri is that adolescents are allowed to decide who they want to live with.  Until a child turns 18 and therefore no longer a minor, he or she is not allowed to make the final determination about custody arrangements.  Child custody laws in Missouri do allow the wishes of a minor child to be taken into account during a custody dispute, but only as one factor, and only if the child is old enough to be making a rationally-based decision.


Legal Custody


There are two types of custody that can be awarded by a judge.  Both types of custody can be given to either parent or both parents, depending on what the court feels would be in the best interests of the child.  The first kind of custody, legal custody, dictates which parent or parents have control over decisions made for a child, including educational, religious, and health-related decisions.


Often, joint legal custody will be awarded, which means that parents must consult one another and work out an agreement about any major decisions involving a child's schooling, health care, or religious instruction.  If joint custody is ruled not to be in a child's best interest, child custody laws in Missouri allow the judge to award sole custody to one parent.  When this happens, the custodial parent no longer has to consult the non-custodial parent about decisions pertaining to their child, no matter how important.


Physical Custody


Physical custody refers simply to where a child lives.  Parents with joint legal custody do not always have joint physical custody.  Sometimes physical custody will be divided evenly, but often child custody laws in Missouri lead to children having one parent with primary physical custody.




Parents without primary physical custody of their children are allowed to have visitation or parenting time according to a schedule laid out in a parenting plan or judge's order.  If the safety of the child might be compromised by unsupervised visitation, the visitation assigned may be supervised by a family friend or social worker.




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