Missouri Child Custody Reform Aims to Equalize Parenting


The bill promotes shared parenting.

The reform could arguably be a direct result of the growingfathers’ rights movement, which of late has focused on such shared custody initiatives.

Shared parenting proposes that children spend significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time with each parent after divorce or separation.

These arrangements are unusual, but a handful of other states have added laws that encourage shared parenting.

Child custody reform studies indicate that children of divorce or separation can better avoid the dangers of substance abuse, depression, and crime when they spend significant time with each parent.

According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:

  • 63% of teen suicides;
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
  • 71% of high school dropouts;
  • 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
  • 85% of those in prison;
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children.

Section 452.375 of the Missouri code defines “joint legal custody” as meaning:

  • Parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child; and
  • Parents shall confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority.

Also, Section 452.375 provides that joint physical custody shall mean:

  • Each parent be granted significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents; and
  • Parents shall share joint physical custody in a way that provides the child with frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents.

House Bill No. 1550 Examined

The law directs courts to determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child and to:

  • Enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law in a custody case, which makes the case more possibly appealable if a party disagrees with the judgment;
  • Not presume that a parent, solely because of his or her sex, is more qualified than the other parent to act as a joint or sole legal or physical custodian for the child; and
  • Prohibit local courts from establishing their own rules, such as having a default parenting plan.

Missouri Law Lauded

National Parents Organization praised the Missouri legislature’s passage of House Bill No. 1550.

Dr. Ned Holstein, founder and board chair of NPO said,

“Too many families have suffered from the family courts’ outdated preference for giving sole custody to one parent. I urge Gov. Nixon to act on his historic opportunity to sign HB 1550 into law. Instead of setting up parents for a bitter and unnecessary custody battle, HB 1550 will allow families to heal from the pain of divorce and separation from a position of equality and co-parenting. Thank you, Missouri legislators, for voting to bring state child custody laws in line with the overwhelming body of research showing that most children desperately want and need shared parenting after divorce or separation.”

States Face Opposition

Groups such as the National Organization for Women have voiced objections to shared custody reform legislation, saying, “The assertion that ‘shared parenting is in the best interests of minor children’ is on its face untrue and is directly contradicted by the body of academic research on this subject.”

Speak With a Family Law Attorney

Jay Galmiche is a seasoned Family Law Attorney, with more than thirty years of experience. He is compassionate and will guide you through the many challenges of a child custody case. The Galmiche Law Firm serves the areas of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Town & Country, and Wildwood, Missouri, along with surrounding areas. Jay Galmiche will give you the individual attention that you need, beginning with your first free initial consultation.

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