Legal Updates

Missouri Child Custody: Part I – Legal Custody

This week, we will be featuring a series of 3 articles on the topic of child custody. Make sure you come back to the site to read all 3 parts!

Under Missouri law when the issue of child custody is decided by a court the specific issues of legal custody and physical custody will be addressed.  Legal custody deals with the issue of which parent will be in charge of the decision making for the child.  The issue of physical custody deals with which parent the child lives with and will be addressed more specifically in part II.  Each type of custody will be defined more specifically as joint custody or sole custody.

An award of Joint legal custody means that the parents will share the decision making rights for the child.  These decisions include but are not limited to issues relating to welfare, schooling, religion, healthcare, extra-curricular activities.  Parents awarded joint legal custody are expected to confer with each other and work together to make all decisions regarding the child.

An award of Sole legal custody means that the parent awarded sole legal custody shall ultimately be in charge of making decisions related to the welfare, health and education of the child.  While a sole legal custodian has the final say in the decisions related to the child, in most cases the sole legal custodian is still required to confer with the non custodial parent about all issues relating to the child.  The difference between sole legal and joint legal custody is that the parties are not required to agree on all of the decisions.

When deciding the issue of legal custody of the child, the court will base the decision on what is in the best interests of the child based upon all of the evidence.   Factors the court will consider are the wishes of the parents, the needs of the child, the child’s interactions and relationships with each parent and other family members, which parent is the most likely to allow frequent continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent, the living environment of each parent, including either parent’s intent to relocate their residence, the mental and physical health of all parties and the children and finally the wishes of the child (assuming the child is old enough to intelligently voice an opinion).

This is just a brief summary of the child custody law in Missouri.  It is not intended to be legal advice.  Each case is unique and it is best to consult a Missouri attorney to find out how the law should apply to any particular case.