O Fallon Child Custody & Visitation Attorneys
The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C.
Family Law Attorneys, child visitation, Mediation Process
No issue carries more emotional impact than resolving how parents will share the physical time with their children and decisions regarding their health, education and welfare.
In Missouri, we decide two different types of custody – legal custody, which involves who shall make decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the child, and physical custody, which involves when and under what conditions the child resides with each parent.
Legal and physical custody awards may be either joint or sole awards. Missouri has a preference for joint custody awards. Joint legal custody means both parents jointly make decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the child – they share information, they consult prior to decisions and collectively agree on a course of action. Sole legal custody means one parent makes the decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the child, though the sole legal custodian still may have to consult with the other parent in advance of decisions and keep that parent informed about schooling, medical care and activities.
In determining whether to award sole or joint legal custody, the court is guided first by the best interests of the child, but also must consider a list of factors, including the wishes of the parents; the need to assure a continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and which parent would be more likely to facilitate that relationship; the interaction of the child with parents, siblings and other family members; which parent would more likely allow frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent; the child’s adjustment to home, school and community; the mental and physical health of both parents, including any issues of domestic violence; the intention of either parent to relocate; and the wishes of the child, if the child is sufficiently mature to express such wishes.
Joint physical custody awards both parents generally equal time with the minor child. However, just because a court gives the parties joint physical custody does not mean the time must be exactly 50-50. The court may decide it is in the best interests of the child to minimize transitions between households during the school year, for example. In any joint physical custody award, the court still must designate one parent the residential custodian for mailing and educational purposes – an important issue if the child will attend public school. Sole physical custody awards one parent principal time with the minor child, but still must insure frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent. The parent without sole physical custody has what we call visitation rights rather than physical custody rights. In determining whether physical custody should be sole or joint, the court must use the same factors set out above for legal custody.
In all cases, the court must enter a detailed Parenting Plan that will set out the specific duties and conditions of each parent with regard to legal and physical custody, and will set out a specific schedule of temporary physical custody.
Child Custody & Visitation
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