Missouri Follows More of a 50-50 Approach to Physical Custody

On August 28, 2016, House Bill 1550 took effect in Missouri. The bill sought to maximize a child’s time with each parent to the “highest degree possible.” Although many defined the bill as an equal custody law, the bill made specific changes that were not quite that simple.  

One of the specific changes set forth in the new law was that courts were no longer to adopt a standardized parenting plan. In the past, more often than not, Missouri courts would implement a parenting plan that had been consistently used in form and practice. At times, the standardized parenting plan favored mothers in child custody disputes. The new law transformed the historical way of thinking by emphasizing that a parent, solely because of his or her sex, should not be deemed “more qualified” than the other parent to act as legal or physical custodian of the child.  

Additionally, the new law focused on the child’s growth and security, and implied that a child’s well-being is better served if he or she spends frequent time with both parents. The bill has ultimately had the effect of using a 50-50 custody plan as the initial arrangement, and then allowing the court to determine if a different plan is necessary, after reviewing specific facts and evidence.  

The changes in the bill set forth more stringent procedures for custodial orders, including requiring the court to enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law when the parties have not reached an agreement on custody issues. The court’s findings of fact should reflect the 8 statutory factors in the statute when determining what custodial plan is in a child’s best interests.  

In addition to the court’s review and analysis of the 8 statutory factors, the bill encouraged the courts to consider each party’s ability and willingness to allow the child frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent.  

Throughout its implementation, the bill has had a significant impact on custody disputes. As the courts work through the specifics of the bill, it will continue to provide the framework for custodial plans – primarily focusing on what is best for the child.  

If you have questions about your custody arrangement – contact us, we can help.

By | 2018-06-29T03:19:05+00:00 May 23rd, 2018|

Understanding the Complexity of Grandparent Visitation Rights in Missouri

Although grandparents do not have an automatic right to grandchild visitation in Missouri, there are times when grandparents need to seek visitation proactively.  

According to Missouri law, a grandparent may seek visitation rights only under specific circumstances. Missouri’s statute (RSMo. § 452.402) requires the following conditions be met before a grandparent seeks visitation rights:

  • The parents of the child have filed for a dissolution of their marriage

  • The grandchild has resided in the grandparent’s home for at least six (6) months within the preceding twenty-four (24) months

  • One parent of the child is deceased, and the surviving parent denies reasonable visitation to a parent of the deceased parent of the child

  • If one of the 3 situations above have occurred, the grandparent must also have been unreasonably denied visitation for a period of at least ninety (90) consecutive days

In Missouri, when the statutory factors outlined above have been met, the court must still make a determination that visitation time is in the child’s best interests and will not endanger the child’s physical health or emotional development. The court exercises discretion to determine what is in the child’s best interests, and in some cases may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to assist in its analysis.

Although the requirements are stringent, Missouri courts and legislature have provided an avenue for grandparents to pursue visitation rights when it has been wrongfully denied.

By | 2018-06-29T03:18:23+00:00 May 23rd, 2018|