Overview of Child Custody in Missouri

A father spending time with his daughter as he fights for child custody rights in Missouri.

Nearly nine percent of households in Missouri consist of single parents. With that in mind, child custody in Missouri is a hot topic for many people. If you are a parent in Cole County seeking custody, it’s in your best interest to know your rights and what to expect in the process.

While every child custody case is different, there are a few similarities that you can expect in every case.  Generally, family courts in Missouri don’t favor one parent over another when deciding custody. The primary concern is the best interest of the child. 

Family court judges in Missouri typically lean towards joint custody arrangements. When that is not possible, they seek to give the child as much time as possible with each parent. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that obtaining 50-50 custody is guaranteed. 

If you’re seeking child custody in Jefferson City or the surrounding areas, it’s recommended that you consult with an experienced child custody lawyer in your area. 

Contact Kirsch & Kirsch at 573-222-0826 today if you have questions or concerns about your custody case. Learn more about child custody in Missouri below. 

How is Child Custody Determined in Missouri? – Missouri Child Custody Laws in 2021

If you and your co-parent cannot agree on custody before going to court, then a family court judge will decide for you. The courts have the authority to grant sole custody, joint custody, or split custody based on the circumstances of your case. 

Generally, a judge is not necessarily concerned with what the parents want when making custodial decisions. They make their decisions based on what’s in the best interest of the child. Judges use a variety of criteria to make that determination. They include: 

  • Each parent’s capacity to raise and take care of the child 
  • The child’s relationship with their parents 
  • The criminal history of each parent (including child neglect or abuse)
  • The physical and mental health of both parents 
  • The child’s desires

Contrary to popular belief, Missouri is not a “mother’s state.” That means that both parents (regardless of sex) are considered equal when deciding custody. 

Child Custody Laws in Missouri For Unmarried Couples 

Child custody is typically a staple of divorce proceedings. However, what if you’re not married? Generally, Missouri provides unmarried couples with the same rights as married couples. Child custody rights (of the father) are typically determined by paternity. 

Paternity can be established by a DNA test or via voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. If there is a dispute, it may require court action to establish paternity. Once paternity is established, child custody rights and decisions are based on the same criteria for married couples; the best interests of the child. 

If you are an unmarried parent seeking child custody rights, but your co-parent is uncooperative, it’s typically in your best interest to pursue legal action and get the courts involved. 

Will Police Enforce Child Custody in Missouri?

If you and your co-parent do not have a court-ordered parenting agreement in place, the police are not likely to intervene in child custody cases unless you believe your child is in immediate danger. 

However, the police may sometimes get involved (albeit reluctantly) if there is a court order in place. Law enforcement typically prefers to stay out of family situations unless it involves abuse, kidnapping, or other crimes. 

In many cases, a police officer will direct you to handle child custody issues with the courts. However, if you have a police report, it can serve as evidence in your child custody case. Before going to court, be sure that you have a valid reason for doing so. Otherwise, a judge may not look favorably on you taking a co-parent to court out of spite. 

Are You Seeking Child Custody in Missouri? Contact Kirsch & Kirsch Today

Child custody cases are some of the most sensitive in the justice system. At Kirsch & Kirsch, we understand that you want the best for your children. Whether you are pursuing child custody for the first time or seek to modify the current custody order, we’re here to help. 

Our dedicated team of child custody lawyers in Missouri is experienced, skilled, and ready to fight for the best interests of you and your child. 

Don’t go into child custody negotiations without the help of a proven family law lawyer in Jefferson City. Contact Kirsch & Kirsch today at 573-222-0826 for your free, initial consultation.