Who Determines the Custody Schedule After a Divorce?

Custody Schedule

Divorce is an emotionally challenging process that becomes even more complex when children are involved. Child custody is one of the most critical aspects to navigate during a divorce. When couples with children navigate the divorce process, the question of who determines the custody schedule after a divorce is commonly asked.

Understanding Child Custody Law in Missouri

In Missouri, child custody laws give weighted consideration to factors that will be in the child's best interest. Courts recognize that maintaining frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents benefits children of all ages, except in some cases.

In child custody law, two types of custody are typically considered: physical and legal custody. Each type serves a unique purpose and carries different responsibilities for the parent. Understanding these concepts is crucial for parents navigating through a divorce or separation.

Physical Custody: The term "Physical Custody" refers to where the child will live following a divorce. The parent who has physical custody provides the child's primary residence and takes care of the child's day-to-day needs, such as meals, shelter, personal care, etc.

There are two types of physical custody:

  • Sole Physical Custody: In this arrangement, the child lives with one parent, known as the custodial parent. The other parent, referred to as the noncustodial parent, may have visitation rights, allowing them to spend time with the child.
  • Joint Physical Custody: The child spends significant periods with both parents. The time split does not necessarily have to be 50/50; it can be arranged based on what works best for the child and the parents.

Legal Custody: Conversely, "Legal Custody" relates to the decision-making powers concerning significant aspects of the child's life. This includes but is not limited to decisions about the child's health care, education, religious upbringing, overall welfare, etc.

Like physical custody, legal custody can also be sole or joint:

  • Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the exclusive right and responsibility to make significant decisions about the child's life.
  • Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share the rights and responsibilities of making major life decisions for their children. They need to communicate and cooperate for the best interests of the child.

It's important to note that the court can award different physical and legal custody combinations. For instance, one parent could have sole physical custody while both share joint legal custody. Missouri courts prioritize the child's best interests in all scenarios when determining custody arrangements.

How Custody Schedules Are Determined

The custody schedule, often called a parenting plan in Missouri, outlines when the child will spend time with each parent. So, who determines this schedule?

  • Agreement Between Parents: Ideally, the parents can agree on a custody schedule. In this case, they can submit a joint proposed parenting plan to the court. The court may approve the plan if it is comprehensive and serves the child's best interests.
  • Mediation: If parents cannot initially agree, the court may order them to participate in mediation. Some jurisdictions require the parents to attend two hours of mediation when child custody is at issue. A neutral third party (mediator) facilitates discussions between parents to help them reach an agreement on contentious issues, including the custody schedule.
  • Court Decision: If parents cannot agree even after mediation, the court will determine the custody schedule.

The judge considers several factors when determining parenting plans, including but not limited to the following:

  • The wishes of the child's parents and the proposed parenting plans submitted
  • The child’s need for a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship with both parents
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse.
  • Which parent is more inclined to let the child maintain regular, ongoing, and significant interaction with the other parent
  • The child's adaptation to their home environment, academic setting, and local community

Determining custody schedules can be challenging, but understanding how it works can make things less overwhelming. Whether negotiating a custody schedule with your former spouse or preparing for a court hearing, having an experienced family law attorney at your side can make a significant difference.

At Galmiche Law Firm, P.C., we understand Missouri's child custody laws and can confidently help you navigate the process. Our legal team is standing by, ready to provide legal guidance you can trust. Call our office today at (636) 552-4841 to schedule a consultation.

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