Can a Child Choose a Custodial Parent in Missouri?


Can a child choose a custodial parent in Missouri? The Carson Law Firm offers advice and advocacy to parents fighting for their children. Contact us today!

Identifying the Missouri Custodial Parent


When it comes to child care, of the many things parents bother about is who gets child custody rights. Some parents wonder if their children’s wishes can affect the outcome of custody proceedings.

This circumstance may be upsetting for many parents as no parent wants to be rejected by their child. Many children find this situation equally distressing; most of them do not wish to choose between their parents.

Furthermore, only children of a certain age are capable of understanding how their child custody agreement would affect their academic, social, and family development.

Missouri custody laws provide that children should have the right to choose the parent with whom they will spend the most time since this decision will affect a child’s development.

Can a Child in Missouri Determine Custody Under Missouri Law?

The answer is no; a child does not have the final say about their custodial parent. However, a court must consider a child’s custody preferences as one of the relevant factors for determining custody.

Like in many states in the US, Missouri laws do not establish a certain age at which the court must consider the child’s wishes in child custody issues. But then, older children’s custody preferences carry more weight.

This can be a little complicated since no two children are identical. In some circumstances, a 10-year-old can possess more emotional maturity than a 13-year-old. Therefore, courts typically determine how much weight to give a child’s wishes based on discretion.

When considering the child’s custodial preferences, the court will evaluate a child’s capacity for good judgment.

When the court determines child custody, the child’s opinion does not outweigh other factors. For instance, if it is in the child’s best interests to be with the non-preferred parent, the court will not hesitate to decide against the child’s preferences.

The court will evaluate the child’s particular preference with the chosen parent. This is to determine that the child’s choice is not the result of parenting styles.

If the child’s view is founded on mature grounds, the child’s wishes may carry greater weight. For instance, if the child has a meaningful relationship with one parent or the court finds a significant involvement of the parent in the child’s life, the child’s wishes may carry weight. In addition, the court will not give a child’s preferences much weight if the child’s custodial preference varies between parents.

At this point, it may be wise to speak with a child support attorney. They will be able to give you insights into how your case should proceed.

Can a Child Refuse Visitation Under Missouri Law?

Under Missouri statutes, minors under 18 years cannot legally refuse visitation from their non-custodial parent.

Visitation refers to the time allocated by the court for the child to spend with the other parent without physical custody. After the custody case ends in favor of one parent, the court will have the two parents decide on a visitation schedule.

Under the law, the custodian of a child must follow visitation orders. Unless another court order restricts the other parent’s rights, they have the right to see their children. However, the court may revise its decisions if the child has valid reasons, such as abuse or neglect.

    What Are the Factors That Determine Child Custody in Missouri?

    The “best interests of the child” matter most in any child custody battle. The law compels courts to examine all relevant criteria while deciding custody, including but not limited to the following:

    • The custody preferences of both parents

    • The necessity for a meaningful relationship between the child and both parents

    • Each parent’s capacity and desire to fulfill their parental responsibilities for the child’s requirements

    • The interaction and connection of the kid with parents, siblings, and other individuals involved in the child’s best interests

    • An assessment of which parent is more likely to permit regular, ongoing, and meaningful contact between the child and the other parent

    • The child’s adjustment to a new home, community, and school

    • The emotional and physical health of individuals involved

    • Domestic violence history of either parent

    • Plans by either parent to move the child

    • The custody interests of the child

    Do Children Have to Testify in Court Regarding Their Preferences for Child Custody?

    Courts often don’t allow children to testify because they might find the courtroom intimidating. However, if a parent wants their child to testify, the court will decide whether to allow it. The court will consider the child’s maturity level in reaching its decision.

    Under the laws of Missouri, the court may examine the child in chambers to determine the child’s custody preferences and any other relevant matters the child may have information about. The judge may permit both parents’ legal representatives to attend such an examination, depending on the circumstances of the case.

    Additionally, the court may assess a child’s preferred custody arrangement without having the child testify in person. Sometimes, the court may appoint a custody evaluator to visit the child and report on custody issues, including the child’s choice. Mental health specialists may also testify to the child’s preferences.

    In addition, if the court deems it necessary, it may appoint someone to represent the children’s interests directly in the custody hearing. This individual is known as a guardian ad litem. The court must appoint a guardian ad litem in all proceedings involving child abuse and neglect.

    If you have any concerns about the impact of children’s custody choices, you may need to see a child custody lawyer.

    Missouri Custody Classes

    At the end of the custody dispute, the court will decide who becomes the custodial parent, who gets legal custody, and which parent gets physical custody. The court will also approve the final parenting plan for both parties.

    Generally speaking, child custody can either be joint custody or sole custody. The following are the definitions under Missouri family law:


    Joint Legal Custody

    Joint legal custody indicates that the parents share the rights, obligations, and ability to make decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare.

    This implies that unless the court authorizes one parent to have explicit decision-making powers over a particular subject, the parents must consult before making decisions about that issue.

    Joint physical custody indicates that the child resides with each parent for considerable, but not necessarily equal, amounts of time.


    Sole Legal Custody

    Sole legal custody refers to a parenting arrangement in which only one parent has the rights, obligations, and ability to make decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare.

    Sole physical custody implies the child lives with just one parent. In cases of exclusive physical custody, the non-custodial parent may be granted supervised visitation rights as outlined in the court order.


    Contact Our Family Law Group for an Initial Consultation.


    If you have questions or concerns about your child custody arrangement, please do not hesitate to contact our local office in Missouri. Our Missouri child custody relocation lawyers have years of combined legal experience and provide families in need with professional legal assistance.

    Reach out now, and let’s discuss how we can help you.

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