Child Custody Laws in Missouri

Son helping dad shave

Most U.S. states have very similar family court systems and child custody laws. Don’t let this fool you. It’s extremely important to get to know the laws in your state before you begin your child custody case. We’ve all heard of those weird laws from around the country like how its illegal in Alabama to operate a vehicle while blindfolded ( You may never have known about this law and the same may go for some of the Missouri child custody laws.

Types of custody enforced by the Missouri child custody laws

The types of custody that are typically granted by the Missouri child custody laws and courts are generally considered to be the standard and are similar to those of other states. The Missouri child custody laws and courts make both a physical custody and legal custody ruling, along with sole or joint in each case. A co-parent with physical custody is in charge of the day-to-day care for the child. A co-parent with legal custody is in charge of determining the child’s upbringing, which includes issues regarding education, health care, religion, and other important aspects of the child’s life. The co-parent with legal custody of the child is not to use that status as a way to impact or damage the custody or visitation rights of the non-custodial co-parent. Co-parents are also encouraged to create their own parenting plans outside of court, which the court will review and consider when determining a custody arrangement.

What factors do Missouri child custody laws and courts take into account?

The Missouri child custody laws and courts, as well as those of all other states, uphold the best interest of the child above all else, including the wishes of the co-parents. Missouri child custody laws and courts believe that it is in the best interest of each child that they have frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both co-parents after they have separated or divorced. Because joint custody, or sole custody with visitation, is commonly enforced, Missouri family courts make an effort to encourage co-parents to reduce the amount of conflict between them and to keep their children as far away from their disputes as possible. Some of the additional observations of the court that can effect the custody determination include the following.

  • Missouri family courts will observe the willingness of both co-parents to continue to perform as mother and father of the child.
  • They will consider which co-parent is more likely to facilitate a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship between the child and the other co-parent.
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
  • The possibility of either co-parent to relocate the primary residence of the child in the future.
  • The wishes of the child, depending on his or her age and maturity. The child will be interviewed in private by a judge who may permit counsel to be present and participate in the interview. The child may also be interviewed on additional relevant matters other than custody.

Relocation and Missouri child custody laws

Missouri child custody laws make relocation of the child and custodial co-parent a long and challenging process. There is a procedure that must be strictly followed when seeking the approval from the court to relocate with your child. First, specific details and information regarding the relocation must be disclosed to the other co-parent in a written letter sent through certified mail. If the co-parent planning to relocate fails to provide this information the court may choose to modify the current parenting plan, order that the child return to their original place of residence, or require that the co-parent seeking relocation pay the attorney fees and expenses of the other co-parent as a result of objecting to the relocation. The co-parent requesting relocation must also present their case to a judge with proof as to how the relocation is in the best interest of the child.

This information is not to be used as legal advice. For additional aide and legal information please consult with a Missouri family law professional regarding Missouri child custody laws. For a list of resources in Missouri visit our Helpful Links – Missouri page. The OurFamilyWizard website® is dedicated to providing co-parents with the tools and resources they need to easily manage their custody agreements.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.