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Missouri Child Custody
Child Custody in Missouri

According to Missouri Revised Statutes, Sections 452.375, “[i]f the parents cannot reach a mutual agreement concerning custody of the children, the court shall determine custody based on the best interests of the child factors.”

Missouri child custody laws protect the child. Missouri urges parents to define their parenting roles in a plan for child rearing after divorce because the plan reflects their willingness to parent after the divorce. The court steps in to settle issues of child support, custody, and visitation rights when the parents cannot.

As governed by child custody laws, Missouri family courts have jurisdiction over custody issues. The courts base their judgment on what serves for the best interests of the child. The court considers all relevant factors that affect the child’s welfare rather than making judgment based on the child’s age and sex alone. The court considers all types of custody such as joint legal, joint physical, sole custody, and third-party custody. When a parent is not granted with custody, he or she may obtain visitation rights when it is in the best interests of the child.

Missouri laws prohibit any partiality based on the child’s gender or the parents’ financial status.

Here are factors used to decide whether joint custody is plausible or a third-party custodian is required:

  • the child’s wishes as to custody, provided that he or she is mature enough to make such claims, and the extent of his or her need for a regular, long-term, and meaningful relationship with both parents;
  • the child’s relationship to his or her parents, siblings, and other family members;
  • the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  • the parents’ ability and willingness to provide for the child’s needs;
  • the parents’ wishes as to custody and their proposed parenting plan;
  • the parents’ willingness to allow and encourage the child to continue establishing a meaningful relationship with the other parent.
  • the mental and physical health of the parties involved in the proceedings.
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, or negligence.

Mandatory Parenting Class

Missouri courts require all divorcing parents with minor children to complete a mandatory parenting class before granting a divorce. This requirement is designed to help parents and children deal with the trauma of divorce and separation. Unless the court grants a waiver, both parents must complete this requirement. Rather than give up an afternoon or evening taking your course in a crowded classroom, you can fulfill this requirement conveniently online at a very reasonable cost. We recommend you take Children in Between Online" to fulfill your court requirement and for the benefit of your children.

Joint Custody Preference

Missouri law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as practically possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. Joint custody is deemed favorable, however, this may not always be awarded if parents cannot get along and the child is at risk with one of them.

A court in Missouri encourages frequent and continuous contact between the child and both parents so long as it serves the best interests of the child.

Missouri law recognizes a variety of custody arrangements, including joint legal custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody or sole physical custody. In Missouri, joint legal custody allows both parents to equally share in custody decision-making rights and responsibilities, including matters of education, health care and the child's general welfare. Joint physical custody awards both parents a substantial amount of time in which the child resides with them, under their supervision; however, this time will not necessarily be exactly equal.

Third Party Custody

In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, tries to gain custody of a child. Missouri allows third party custody in cases when it is warranted, if a court determines that both of the child's parents are unfit, unsuitable or unable to parent the child, and that awarding a third party legal and physical custody is in the child's best interest. A third party, also known as a "party of interest," is usually a grandparent or other close family member and can intervene at any time.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.

If a party who is requesting custody of a child has committed an act of domestic violence, the court ensures that the custody arrangement protects the child, the parent who is the victim of the domestic violence, and any other children that the parent has.


The Missouri courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy. The non-custodial parent retains visitation rights to the child and enjoys visitations in the manner in which the court feels best preserves the relationship between the child and the parent. The custodial parent may not alter the other parent's visitation rights nor prevent the visiting parent from seeing the child without a court order.

A parent who receives supervised visitation rights often has been involved in domestic violence at home. When a parent has only visitation, a court may order the address and contact information of the child's sole custodian redacted for safety purposes.

Regardless of the type of custody or visitation arrangement, Missouri law gives both parents access to a child's records and other information, such as medical records and school records.

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