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  • Coreena Abernathy

Custody and the "Best Interests of the Child" Factors in Missouri

Updated: Dec 30, 2018

There are two types of custody that must be decided in a custody case: legal and physical custody. Either joint or sole legal and physical custody may be awarded by a Missouri court. Parents who have joint legal custody share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child and must confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights. Joint physical custody means that the parents each have significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each parent. When joint physical custody is awarded, the residence of one parent must be designated as the address of the child for mailing and educational purposes.

Best Interests Factors

Any judgment providing for custody must include a specific written parenting plan setting forth the terms of legal and physical custody. If a parenting plan is not agreed upon by the parties, a plan will be determined by the court in accordance with the best interests of the child.

In Missouri, the following factors must be considered by the court in determining the best interests of the child:

(1) The wishes of the child's parents as to custody and the proposed plan submitted by both parties;

(2) The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of the parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;

(3) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;

(4) Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;

(5) The child's adjustments to the child's home, school, and community;

(6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;

(7) The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and

(8) The wishes of a child as to the child's custodian.

In awarding custody, no preference can be given to either parent because of the parent's age, sex, financial status, or because of the age or sex of the child. The court may not presume that a parent, solely because of his or her sex, is more qualified than the other parent to act as a joint or sole legal or physical custodian for the child.


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