Having a relationship with your child is one of the most important things you can have in life. Legal matters impacting the relationship you have with your child are of special importance. Child custody is determined based on a variety of factors including the child’s need to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents, the ability of parents to meet the child’s needs, the child’s wishes, and the child’s relationship with their parents. Few legal matters are as impactful as those dealing with child custody, as such it is especially important that you seek legal counsel when negotiating child custody.
If the child’s parents will be sharing custody of the child, a parenting plan will be required. Parents can either jointly develop a parenting plan or have a judge develop a parenting plan based on the needs of the child and the wishes of both parents. This parenting plan will specify both parenting time, known as physical custody, and legal custody rights. Parenting time will describe the child’s residency schedule and which parent will get the child during holidays. The portion of the parenting plan covering legal custody will determine how parents will make important decisions regarding the child’s welfare, including decisions about education and health.
Joint Custody and Sole Custody
The terms joint custody and sole custody refer to how parenting time and legal rights are divided. Since custody is divided into both physical custody and legal custody, the terms joint custody and sole custody can be misleading on their own, so it is better to specify the type of custody being discussed. For instance, instead of referring to joint custody, one should refer to joint legal custody or joint legal and physical custody, so that it is clear what form of custody is being discussed. It is important to remember that legal custody and physical custody are distinct. Legal custody refers to decision making, while physical custody refers to parenting time.
Factors in Determining Custody
The Court will consider 8 factors in determining custody in Missouri pursuant to Missouri law. These factors include:
- The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
- The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
- 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 principal residence of the child; and
- The wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian.
Custodial vs. Non-Custodial Parent
A child’s custodial parent is the parent with which the child spends the most term per the parenting plan. A non-custodial parent is the parent that the child spends the least amount of time with per the parenting plan.
Visitation rights refer to physical custody – a parent’s right to spend time with their child according to a schedule specified in the parenting plan. Joint visitation rights or shared visitation rights indicate that both parents have the right to spend time with the child in their physical custody.
Third Party Custody
Third party custody refers to situations where child custody is awarded to a party other than a parent. Third party custody is usually awarded to a grandparent or other relative when the child’s parents do not want custody or are unable to care for the child. In most cases, the third party seeking custody must demonstrate an established relationship with the child and that the parents are either unfit or unwilling to care for the child.
Get Experienced Child Custody Legal Representation
Chris Benjamin has handled hundreds of family law cases including over 100 contested bench trials. He is a multi-year recipient of the Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers publication’s “Rising Star” award for his work in family law issues.
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KC Road Lawyers offers free consultations concerning child custody in Missouri. Call 816-425-2420 or navigate to our contact page to find out how KC Road Lawyers can help you with your Missouri child custody issue.