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New Custody Law in Missouri Potentially Changes the Starting Point for Physical Custody to 50/50

Effective August 28, 2016, a new standard will be in effect in custody cases in Missouri. The following language has been added to the law: the court administrator is directed to create or approve a handbook outlining the following“ [g]uidelines as to what is to be included in a parenting plan in order to maximize to the highest degree the amount of time that the child may spend with each parent …”

While this language is poorly written, most practitioners – and more importantly the majority of family court judges in the St. Louis area – are expected to interpret this language to mean that barring some reason to do otherwise, parents should have equal physical custody time with their children.

The reasons that would support a variance from equal physical custody are going to be case specific but could include the age or special needs of the child; a pattern of abuse, neglect or inappropriate parenting by one parent; the parent’s work schedules or the distance between the parent’s homes.

This change in the law will not in and of itself constitute a basis for modification, but as a practical matter, it may lessen the obligation to show a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.

If you have any questions about how this law may affect you, consult with an experienced family law practitioner.  We offer a special rate of $125 for our initial consultation.