Missouri Custody Law: What You Need to Know


With the complicated, emotional nature of cases related to Missouri custody law, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. The Cason Law Firm can help.

The New Custody Law in Missouri

Custody law in Missouri has changed in recent years, and a new custody law took effect on August 28, 2019. Passed by the Missouri legislature and signed by Governor Mike Parson, it changed how custody cases are handled in Missouri.


Recent Changes in Missouri Child Custody Laws

Family law, like most legal areas, is subject to regular updates. Many of which require a family law or divorce attorney to explain how they may affect your child custody arrangements or child support order.

Recent changes in Missouri child custody laws relate to the following:

  • The parental rights of fathers and mothers have been strengthened.
  • Custody decisions are based on the child’s best interest, not just the mother or father.
  • There is a presumption that joint custody is in a child’s interest unless there is evidence to show otherwise.
  • A parent who has been denied custody may be granted visitation rights.
  • If a parent has been denied visitation rights, they may seek to modify those rights after one year from denial.

If you are dissatisfied with your parenting plan or visitation schedule, you can modify a custody order when you have a substantial change in circumstances.

For instance, if your child’s school schedule changes or if you make another significant change to your work schedule, you might be able to modify your custody order.

You should also be able to get a modification if there is evidence that the current arrangement is not working out or if there have been any instances of child abuse.

If you are considering filing for a modification to your custody arrangement, you should speak with an experienced Missouri family law attorney.

The Carson Law Firm has been handling Missouri child custody cases for over 30 years. We will help you understand the recent changes to Missouri child custody law and how they may affect your case.

Call us today at (314) 721-2422 for a free consultation.

Common Missouri Custody Factors

The court will consider factors that it decides are relevant to the child’s best interest when determining custody. That could include:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents, as well as those of any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest

  • The child’s adjustment at home, at school, and in the community

  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved

  • Any history of abuse against the child or either parent

  • Which parent is more likely to allow the most contact with the noncustodial parent and grandparents, if applicable

  • The parents’ willingness and ability to foster a continuing close relationship between family members

Regardless of which parent the child resides with, it is essential to promote a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship with both. Child custody arrangements in Clayton can be emotionally challenging, but the process can be more straightforward with a solid attorney-client relationship with the Carson Law Firm attorney.

Understanding Missouri Custody Laws

Under child custody in Missouri, there are two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody is the right to have a child live with you for a certain period. Legal custody is the right to decide your child’s welfare, such as education and religion.

Missouri courts may award parents joint legal custody if it is in the child’s best interest. In deciding whether joint legal custody would be in a child’s best interest, Missouri courts will consider factors such as:

  • The wishes of the parents

  • The age and sex of each parent

  • The physical and mental condition of each parent

  • Whether one parent has been convicted or pleaded no contest to one or more felony offenses against any person

  • Whether one parent has been convicted or pleaded no contest

Reputable family law or divorce attorney can help negotiate terms between married and unmarried parents during a child custody dispute.

How to File for Custody in Missouri


Custody cases are nuanced, and there are a variety of things you need to prepare before you can file for custody. The following are some things you need to know when filing for custody in Missouri.

You need to understand the different types of custody and what they mean before you can file for custody. There are two types of legal and physical custody, which are joint legal and physical and sole legal custody or physical.

Joint legal means both parents have an equal say in the child’s life, while joint physical means both parents have equal rights to see the child at all times.

Sole physical implies that one parent has more control over where the child lives, while sole legal implies that one parent has more control over who can make decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare.


What Are the Laws for Child Custody?

The laws for child custody are different in every state. Every state has its statutes and guidelines that determine the rights of both parents.

In most states, the courts will award joint legal custody when both parents have the right to decide about their children’s education, religion, health care, and other important aspects of their lives.

Joint physical custody is where the child will live with one parent most of the time and then visit with the other parent regularly.

In some states, there is a presumption that joint physical custody is best for children. This means that if one parent wants to have sole physical custody of the child or if they want to move away with them permanently, it must be proven that this arrangement would be better for the child.

Is Missouri a Father or Mother State?

No, Missouri is not a father or mother state. Under Missouri law, both parents are treated equally when it comes to custody. Missouri courts will award joint legal and physical custody if it is in the best interest of the child.

Missouri Child Support


In Missouri, both parents are legally obligated to pay child support. The amount of child support is based on the Missouri Child Support Guidelines, which consider the income of both parents, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child.

Child support is usually paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, but in some cases, it can be paid by both parents.

If you are a non-custodial parent and you do not pay child support, you can be held in contempt of court. This means you can be fined, jailed, or both.

If you are a custodial parent and you do not receive child support, you can file a contempt of court action against the non-custodial parent. An experienced attorney at The Carson Law Firm can help you with this process.

Hire a Family Lawyer for a Custody Arrangement

Without a custody arrangement, a legal process is required to make the decision for you. When the parents cannot agree on who should have custody, judges will often ask for a custody evaluation to help them decide what is in the child’s interest.

To represent your interests, as well as the interests of the child, hire an experienced law firm to help resolve your child custody issues.

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