Little girl with paper family in hands

Child Custody FAQ

If you are a parent going through a divorce, you undoubtedly have concerns for your children's wellbeing. To calm any worries you may have, our Missouri child custody attorneys are here to answer your biggest questions.

What is the difference between legal and physical child custody?

Physical custody means providing day-to-day care for the child, and the child will live with the parent with them. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make long-term critical decisions about their child's welfare, including their education, medical care, dental care, and religious instruction.

What is the difference between joint and sole child custody?

Joint legal custody is when the parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to issues concerning the child's health, education, and welfare. In sole legal custody arrangements, only one parent has those rights, though it is rare.

Joint physical custody means that each parent has significant, but not necessarily equal, periods during which the child resides with them. Sole physical custody means that the child would live with one parent. In these situations, the non-custodial parent may still have specific visitation rights set out in the court's order.

How do judges decide which parent gets custody?

When deciding who will have custody, the court will consider various factors, such as the following:

  • What was the child's relationship with their parents like before the divorce?
  • Has one parent abused or neglected their child or former spouse?
  • Which home will give the child a better sense of stability and comfort?
  • What is each parent's living situation?
  • How willing are the parents to cooperate?
  • Has one parent been more cooperative than the other?

The overriding consideration is always the child's best interests. Often, the main factor is which parent has been the child's primary caretaker." If the children are old enough, the courts will take their preferences into account in making a custody decision.

Do family law courts favor mothers in child custody cases?

Under Missouri law, judges will not appoint any parent custody based on gender; hence either parent has equal opportunity to obtain custody. That said, fathers have the same chance to file for custody, support, or even visitation. In any case involving a child, the court takes it very seriously and will award custody to the person who has a better fit for the child's best interests.

What is a parenting plan, and do I need one?

A parenting plan is a document intended to assist parents who are not living together in specifying the custody and visitation schedule, the decision-making rights and responsibilities of each parent, how to resolve disputes, and how the child's expenses will be covered.

In Missouri, the parties are required to submit a proposed parenting plan, either individually or together.

How can I increase my chances of winning custody of my child?

There are things you can do to improve your chances of obtaining custody, and there are also things you can do to hurt your custody battle. You should consult with your attorney concerning the specifics of your situation. You should be aware that everything that you say and do in front of the children or the other parent could make its way back to the judge.

We have more tips on this subject here: How Can I Get Full Custody of my Child?

Fighting for Custody Rights in Missouri

You do not have to go through this experience alone. If you need representation from a capable child custody lawyer in Columbia, turn to the family law team at Rutter and Sleeth Law Offices.

Contact our Columbia child custody attorneys today at (573) 279-1349 to schedule a consultation.