Factors Influencing Missouri Child Custody Decisions

Knowing How a Case May Turn Out

Child custody cases can be filled with tense emotions. No parent wants to wonder about the result of their custody agreement and how it can affect their time with their children. They can have an idea, however, of how the potential determination of child custody may play out in their case based on examining Missouri law. Here is what you need to know regarding Missouri’s child custody factors.

Best Interests of the Child

Missouri law states that any child custody award will be made with the best interests of the child in question at the heart of the decision. What this means, however, can be difficult to fully define. This is why Missouri law lists out several factors that ultimately comprise what determines a child’s best interests.

The Plans of the Parents

Part of what helps a judge make a determination of child custody is knowing each parent’s parenting plan. It is helpful for a judge to know exactly what each parent wants for the child and how they would plan on following through to encourage their development. They will also look at each parent’s submitted parenting plan.

The Child’s Needs

While this might sound obvious, a child’s needs go far beyond just the material need for food and shelter. Part of this is how each parent would foster a relationship with the child and strengthen that relationship over time. A child needs to have a strong relationship with their parents, and knowing how necessary it is for them to have continued contact with both parents plays a role in determining custody.

In addition, a judge will also examine the capability of each parent to meet a child’s needs and each parent’s willingness to fulfill their parental duties as the child’s mother and father. This can include an examination of each parent’s earning potential and other similar items.

Mental Health of All Individuals

The mental health of all individuals in the case, including both the parents and the child, plays a significant role in awarding custody. If, for example, one parent is deemed unfit to meet a child’s needs due to a mental health condition, then it is likely that the other parent would be awarded a larger portion of custody. This also includes the presence of any physical, emotional, or mental abuse against a child or the other parent.

The Parents’ Willingness to Foster Relationships

It is important for a child to have meaningful relationships with both parents. If a judge finds that one parent is unlikely to allow the child to have any sort of communication or relationship with the other parent, then that parent is unlikely to have a significant custody award. A judge would want to know that a parent would not only allow a child to have contact with the other parent but would actually encourage said communication and aim to foster growth within their relationship.

The Child’s Connections

If the child has any siblings, either from the same marriage or from a previous relationship, then a judge must know the depth of that sibling relationship. A stronger connection may mean that the child may end up residing with the parent who has custody of the siblings.

In addition, a judge will also look at the child’s current educational status, including school location, and how the child is performing academically. If awarding custody to one parent may result in a change of schools, that could influence how a judge views that child’s best interests.

Working With an Attorney

Child custody cases are sensitive matters. No one wants to lose time with their children; in fact, parents want to spend as much time with their children as possible. If you are having a hard time seeing your children, seek out the assistance of an attorney who understands child custody matters in Missouri and can help you seek justice. Rutter and Sleeth Law Offices is committed to helping our clients achieve solutions that meet their needs and the needs of their child.


To learn more or to speak with an attorney, call (573) 279-1349 or visit us online.

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