Deciding St. Louis MO Child Custody Cases


A family court judge will decide if divorcing parents can’t agree on a custody arrangement. Typically, the judge will closely analyze the evidence and evaluate every relevant factor.

However, deciding how to structure a child custody arrangement for two households can be challenging. In addition, the judge has to consider relevant factors outlined in Missouri laws and evaluate them in light of the child’s best interest.

Missouri child custody laws give specific guidelines for these factors and circumstances and can help the judge reach this difficult decision.

If you are involved in a Missouri child custody case, you must consult a St. Louis attorney to understand the law and ensure your rights are protected. At The Carson Law Firm, we can help you understand the legal framework and what factors a judge will look at in deciding your case.


Relevant Factors St. Louis Judges Consider


When the parties cannot agree on the arrangements for decision-making and sharing parenting time for their children, the court must consider all relevant factors. Missouri law outlines several factors that the court must consider, including:

  1. The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
  2. The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  4. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  5. The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
  6. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved. If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence as defined in section 455.010 has occurred, and if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the child’s best interest, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;
  7. The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
  8. The wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian. The fact that a parent sends their child or children to a home school, as defined in section 167.031, shall not be the sole factor that a court considers in determining custody of such child or children.”

Ultimately the court will consider all relevant factors and make a custody determination that best serves the child’s interests. The experienced attorneys at The Carson Law Firm can help you understand and prepare for these issues in your case.


Judges’ Orders and Legal Child Custody Arrangements


In St. Louis, the judges begin from the position that joint legal custody and true joint physical custody (50/50) are in the children’s best interests. If parents want to change that arrangement into something different, it is up to them to convince the judge.

Increasingly with joint legal custody situations where the parties do not communicate well or make decisions together in an effective manner, judges pressure the parties into options that they cannot order except with the agreement of the parties, such as co-parent counseling and the appointment of a “parent coordinator.”

A parent coordinator (“PC”) is a specially trained lawyer (or retired judge) or mental health professional who a judge has appointed to assist the parties with the implementation of a Parenting Plan. The PC will decide on a particular issue if the parents cannot.

“Co-parenting counseling” is precisely what its name indicates: a therapist with experience working with parents who are no longer (or were never really able to) work together to make joint decisions about their children together to assist them in learning to communicate effectively and to cooperate to support their children.

The success of co-parent counseling depends somewhat on the therapist’s skill but ultimately requires the commitment of both parents to do the necessary hard work. It is hard work but well worth it. Co-parent counseling is often the most successful way for parents to move forward and keep their relationship as healthy as possible for the benefit of their children.

Sometimes, the court may order supervised visitation or no physical contact with a child. The court will only order this if the situation warrants it and there is a real concern that either physical or emotional harm might come to the child.


Joint Physical Custody Arrangements


Again, with physical custody, the judges in St. Louis will order 50/50 times, absent strong evidence that such an order is inappropriate. There are many possible reasons that 50/50 custody will be found not to be in the child’s best interests, but most often include job-related issues like hours of employment that cannot be changed which make such a schedule unworkable (e.g., start time at 6 am).


Common Child Custody Schedules


With a 50/50 schedule, one of two different schedules is generally followed.

The first one includes alternating seven-day periods, with the only issue being the day the transfer will occur. Usually, that transfer is on Sundays, so it doesn’t interfere with school.

The second schedule is called a 5-2 schedule (or a 2-2-3, which is the same thing). Under this plan, the weekdays for each parent remain the same, and the weekend days change. Here’s an example:

Week 1:

Parent A: Monday-Tuesday (until Wednesday morning)

Parent B: Wednesday-Thursday (until Friday morning)

Parent A: Friday-Monday (morning)

Week 2:

Parent A: Monday-Tuesday (until Wednesday morning)

Parent B: Wednesday-Thursday (until Friday morning)

Parent B: Friday-Monday (morning)

This schedule results in each parent having seven nights out of fourteen.

Holidays and special days such as birthdays and Mother’s/Father’s Day must also be addressed.


Best Interests of the Child


When determining child custody arrangements, the St. Louis family court judge will decide between available options. These options can include the following:

  • Joint legal and joint physical custody
  • Joint legal with sole physical custody awarded to one parent
  • Joint physical and sole legal custody
  • Sole legal and sole physical custody with allowed visitation rights

If there is a risk that a parent with visitation rights would harm the child in any way, visitation may be supervised and limited.

Although specific factors must be considered when determining custody, the court must consider which plan is in the child’s best interest.

If you or a loved one is dealing with child custody issues, you must consult an experienced MO child custody lawyer who can evaluate your case and guide you through the procedure.


Contact an Experienced Child Custody Attorney


If you or a loved one is dealing with child custody issues, you must consult an experienced MO child custody lawyer who can evaluate your case and guide you through the procedure. A lawyer can advise on child abuse, domestic violence, and other issues that may arise during proceedings. They can also help you navigate the suitable post-divorce modifications you’d need. 

Whether you are dealing with joint custody, sole physical or legal custody, or any other child custody arrangement in Missouri, an experienced attorney can help you understand the court’s order and protect the best interests of your children.

The Carson Law Firm has years of experience in child custody cases and is prepared to help you get the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today for a consultation to discuss your child custody situation.