Best interest of the child

How Does Missouri Determine the Best Interest of a Child?~ 3 min read

The term “Best Interests of a Child” is commonly used in child custody cases in Missouri.  But how does the state determine what is in the best interest of your child? The process may seem complex, but let’s break it down for you.

Missouri operates under a new statute that presumes a 50-50 custody arrangement. It presumes that both parents will have equal parenting time. There must be significant reasons to deviate from this. However, a court can consider other factors if there are questions about a 50-50 arrangement.

The Missouri statute outlines eight crucial factors that the court examines:

    The court can consider the parents’ custody wishes. It can also review any proposed parenting plans submitted by the parents.

    A child needs a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship with both parents. Each parent plays a pivotal role in raising their child. The court can assess the ability and willingness of parents to perform their roles as mother and father and their ability to meet the needs of the child.

    The court will examine the child’s interactions and relationships with their parents, siblings, and other important people in their life. This holistic view helps in understanding the child’s best interests.

    The court will consider which parent is more likely to help the child to have frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the other parent. This factor emphasizes the importance of fostering a healthy relationship between the child and both parents.

    The child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community is carefully    evaluated. The court recognizes that homeschooling should not be the sole factor in determining custody.

    The mental and physical health of all individuals involved is a critical factor. The court will consider any history of abuse. If there has been a history of domestic violence, measures are taken to protect the child and the victimized parent or family member.

    The court considers whether a parent plans to move the child’s main residence. This factor acknowledges the potential impact of a significant move on the child’s well-being.

    The court values the unobstructed input of the child about their custodial arrangement. This input is expected to be free of coercion and manipulation, allowing the court to consider the child’s genuine preferences.

    The 50-50 presumption can be challenging. It usually requires significant reasons. Substance abuse and untreated mental health issues are potential grounds. Consistent denial of parenting time is another potential reason. The needs of the child, especially if they have special requirements, can also be a factor.

    In practical terms, a common schedule is a “2-2-5-5” arrangement. One parent has Monday and Tuesday, the other has Wednesday and Thursday, and they alternate weekends from Friday until Monday. Other variations include a “2-2-3” schedule, a week-to-week arrangement, or even a very specific daily plan tailored to your family’s needs.

    Switching between parents can be hard on the child. Frequent changes in custody arrangements might create challenges for the child as they will have to adjust to different living environments. Limiting the number of exchanges each week is generally less disruptive to your child’s routine.

    Understanding Missouri’s approach to determining the best interest of a child is crucial. This is as you navigate the complexities of a child custody case. The 50-50 presumption is strong. Substance abuse, mental health, and your child’s unique needs can play a pivotal role in shaping custody arrangements. Stay informed. Seek legal advice. Work to ensure that your child’s best interests are at the forefront of the process.

    If you have questions or need legal assistance regarding child custody or any other family law matter, please contact Jennifer Piper at 314-449-9800 to schedule a consultation. Family Ally is located at 130 S. Bemiston Ave., Suite 608, St. Louis, MO 63105.

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