Who gets custody of the child(ren) is often very confusing when parents decide to live apart. It is helpful to understand how the court makes their determinations by knowing what they consider while deciding this very important issue.
To begin, it is imperative to know that when it comes to Missouri courts and the child(ren), the court’s decisions will always be based on what they determine is in the best interests of the child(ren). While trying to determine what is in the best interests of the child(ren) the judge may review one or more of the following;
- What was the role and involvement of both parents with the child(ren) before and after the parents separated
- The age of the child(ren)
- The physical and emotional needs of the child(ren)
- How your child(re) are adjusting to their home and/or school.
- How well both parents get along with each other
- After curricular activity schedule of the child(ren)
- Your work schedule and the work schedule of your child(ren)’s other parent
- The physical location of both parent’s homes and places of employment
- The physical location of where your child(ren) attend school
- And more……
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Parents unfamiliar with the legal system confuse legal custody with physical custody.
The parent awarded legal custody will make the major decisions regarding the child(ren). As examples of what some of these decisions might be are:
- What school the child(ren) will attend
- What church the child(ren) will attend
- What doctors the child(ren) will see
- What medications the child(ren) may take
- Whether or not the child(ren) will have a medical procedure
- Will make all medical decisions in regards to the health of the child(ren)
- ……and more
It is important to know that Missouri courts prefer to award Joint Legal Custody which means that both parents will work together to reach these decisions. If joint legal custody isn’t possible in your situation, the court will have to determine which of the two parents will be awarded sole legal custody which will give one parent the ability to make the legal decisions without having to discuss the situation with the other parent.
WHO YOUR CHILD LIVES WITH HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH LEGAL CUSTODY
Legal custody does not have anything to do with who your child(ren) live with or how much time they spend with either parent. That is called physical custody. Not only does Missouri court favor joint legal custody, they also prefer joint physical custody by awarding parenting time to each parent that will be in the best interest of your child(ren). Physical custody will decide where your child(re) will live and how often your child(ren) should see their other parent.
If both parents can set aside their differences and get along well enough to raise their child(ren) cooperatively, everybody wins. Therefore, the majority of judges encourage parents to discuss these issues and come to an agreement regarding legal and physcial custody of the child(ren).
Keep in mind that if you can’t do it, the courts will do it. So refusing to cooperate in this process won’t make it not happen, it just puts the situation in the hands of a third party to make the decision for everyone.
If you are able to reach an agreement between yourself the child(ren)’s other parent regarding legal and physical custody of the child(ren), the court will almost always allow your agreement to become the final order.
Custody is extremely important to get right and RS Law has the skills necessary to guide you through this process. We will work with you to understand your goals in regards to the child(ren) and we will do everything possible to help you achieve those goals. This process is filled with emotion and it is wise to have someone helping you make these decisions that isn’t as emotionally involved as you are. Having RS Law on your side can make a huge difference on how livable your custody agreement will be. Whichever side is represented by RS Law has a clear advantage. Whatever you do, take great care and get the child custody order right the first time because changing it can be very expensive.