If you’re going through a divorce or legal separation where children are involved, you’ll want to get familiar with the child custody laws of your state. Educating yourself about child custody laws in Missouri is the first step to take if you are considering a petition for child custody or are in the middle of a child custody dispute due to divorce or legal separation. However, in the event that you do find yourself in a child custody case, you will want to get the legal advice of an experienced family law firm, such as Missouri Legal. 

Read on to learn more about how child custody is decided in Missouri, what kinds of custody arrangements there are, and how a family lawyer in Springfield can help. 

How is Child Custody in Missouri Decided?Boy holding his hands like scale choosing between his parents - Child Custody Missouri

While there are some subtle differences, child custody laws across the United States have one thing in common, that is the “best interests of the child” standard. What this means is that the court must consider the best interest of the children involved, first. 

According to (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 452.375.4.) the judge will begin each case presuming that the child or children would benefit from “frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents” and from having both parents “participate in decisions affecting the health, education, and welfare of their children.” There are various factors that go into determining the best situation for the child. These factors from Findlaw include, but are not limited to: 


  • The child’s emotional need to maintain a close relationship with each parent
  • The child’s own wishes (these may differ from his/her best interests, but will still be taken into consideration by the judge)
  • Relocation plans
  • Each parents’ individual parenting plan and wishes for their child or children
  • The financial needs and resources of the child
  • The parent’s willingness to encourage their child to have a healthy relationship with each parent
  • The mental and physical well-being of each party
  • History of abuse or neglect
  • Any history of parental drug or alcohol abuse
  • The need for a stable home environment


In all child custody cases, the judge is looking to make a decision that will ultimately lead to the child’s safety and happiness so that many factors will be taken into account. 

Furthermore, in Missouri, parents are required to submit a proposed parenting plan to the court after filing for divorce. This plan will help the judge, and both parents create a schedule that will work for everyone. Parenting plans are not set in stone and may be adapted as the children age, parents relocate, or circumstances change. Some programs will include a certain amount of time in which the proposal may be adjusted along with a method that can be used to settle disputes that may occur. 

Types of Custody Arrangements in Missouriboy on father's back - Child Custody Missouri

There are currently five different custody arrangements with an emphasis on legal and physical custody that a judge will consider during a child custody dispute. Legal custody means that the party or parties have legal authorization to make decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and upbringing. Physical custody means that the child lives in the home of one or both parents. In Missouri, the following arrangements will be considered:


  • Joint physical and legal custody granted to both parents
  • Joint physical custody to both parents and sole legal custody to one parent
  • Joint legal custody to both parents and sole physical custody to one parent
  • Sole custody, physical and legal, to one parent
  • Custody or visitation by third parties, such as grandparent visitation


Talk with a family attorney today to find out which of the above child custody arrangements make the most sense for you and are in the best interest of your child. We can help you discover the pros and cons of every and any situation. 

How A Family Lawyer Can Help

Going through a divorce, legal separation, or child custody dispute is emotionally and financially taxing on everyone involved. Missouri Legal wants to make sure that we provide you with the opportunity to find the right course of action so that everyone, especially your children, receives the best possible future. 

Even in the most amicable of divorces, child custody arrangements usually are the most significant issues and cause the most heartache. We want to make sure that you feel comfortable hiring us to protect your greatest asset, your children. 

While it is not a requirement to hire a family attorney for a child custody case or even a divorce attorney, it may help you make the best decision in the long run. Additionally, we can help you create a parenting proposal if you feel stuck, and we can offer sound legal advice for what your next step should be. Furthermore, if you require mediation services, we can get you in contact with trusted mediators so that you and your family can avoid going to court altogether. 

Contact Missouri Legal today to schedule a no-obligation consultation to see if our team is a good fit for you