Missouri Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

Missouri requires a parenting plan for all cases involving child custody. Sometimes called a custody agreement, it details exactly how parents share rights and responsibilities for raising their child.

The parenting plan details legal custody (decision-making), physical custody (the residential schedule), parenting rules and child support requirements.

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When parents agree on custody, they work together to create their parenting plan, often with help from a mediator or lawyers.

When parents can't agree, a judge decides the parenting plan in a trial. Each parent argues for the plan they want, and the judge may order one parent's plan or create a new version (often a middle ground between what each parent wants).

Once the judge approves an agreement or makes a ruling in a trial, the parenting plan becomes a court order that both parents must follow.

How to make a parenting plan

Missouri requires parents to use either the state's or their county court's parenting plan form.

Each county court has their own preference for which form you use. Some counties accept the statewide form, while others (such as St. Louis County) require parents to use their form.

Because the state and county forms are very general, many parents add provisions (rules) based on their family's needs.

You can easily do this with the Custody X Change parenting plan template. Simply print your additional provisions to attach to the court form.

What's in a parenting plan

Legal custody (decision-making)

The parenting plan indicates if parents will share joint legal custody or if one will have sole legal custody. When sole legal custody is selected, the plan must explain why parents can't share joint custody and why sole custody is best for the child.

It also includes an explanation of how major, daily and emergency decision-making works:

  • Major decisions: These include the child's education, ongoing medical care, extracurriculars and other significant parenting choices. With joint legal custody, parents make all major decisions together. A parent with sole legal custody can make them alone.
  • Daily decisions: These include routine decisions like bedtime and chores, and they're made by the parent who has physical custody that day. Parents must work together to create consistent daily routines for the child.
  • Emergency decisions: These are necessary for the child's immediate health and safety, made by the parent with physical custody at the time of the emergency. The parent who makes the decision must notify the other parent as soon as possible.

Physical custody (residential schedule)

If parents will share joint physical custody, the plan indicates this and which parent's address will be used as the child's official address.

If a parent will have sole physical custody, the plan indicates this and if the other parent will have unsupervised or supervised visitation. When supervised visitation is requested or ordered, the plan must include an explanation of why leaving it unsupervised would endanger the child's safety or emotional well-being.

All plans must also include a residential schedule, also called parenting time or visitation schedule.

Parenting rules

Missouri's standard parenting rules include the following:

  • Parents should promote the child's relationship with the other parent and can't make negative comments about each other in front of the child.
  • Parents must avoid discussing their case, co-parenting or financial issues in front of the child.
  • Both parents get access to the child's school, medical and other records, unless the judge restricts access for safety reasons.
  • Parents must attempt mediation before they can ask the court to intervene in disagreements about the plan.
  • When a parent wants to move, they must notify the other parent at least 60 days in advance by certified mail; the other parent has 30 days to file an objection.

Child support

Additionally, the parenting plan details your child support arrangement. This includes which parent will pay monthly support and how parents will share the costs of child care, the child's medical/dental insurance and any additional medical needs.

What to add to your parenting plan

Consider supplementing your parenting plan with the provisions below to ensure it meets all of your family's needs. You might even create multiple versions of a plan for negotiations and mediation.


Consider additional parenting guidelines. You can add details about discipline, how a parent's new romantic partner can interact with the child and more.

For example, you may want to include stipulations for your child's social media usage, sleepovers, driving or employment.


The state's parenting plan form lets you list ways you'll communicate with the other parent (e.g., by email). To avoid issues, add additional rules for parent communication, such as response deadlines. You can also agree to message on Custody X Change, which keeps an organized record of conversations and monitors for hostile language.

You can also set detailed parameters for how each parent can communicate with the child.

Age-based rules and changes

Include age-based provisions specific to your child's current needs.

Then, prepare for their future needs with age-based changes. Parenting stipulations for an infant often change when the child becomes a toddler, and children in elementary school require different rules than teenagers. Specify these changes and when they'll go into effect.

Child care

If your child goes to day care or regularly spends time with a third-party caregiver, you can specify who provides the care.

Many parents also include a right of first refusal in their plan. This requires parents to give each other the opportunity to care for the child before getting a babysitter.


The child support section of your plan accounts for general child-rearing costs, medical/dental insurance payments and child care expenses.

You can include requirements for how you'll handle other shared parenting expenses. Typically, parents with similar incomes split larger costs evenly (e.g., fees for sports participation). Then, each parent covers smaller, daily costs when caring for the child.

You might also require parents to keep track of parenting expenses.

The easiest way to make a thorough parenting plan

When you're creating a parenting plan, it's critical you address all of your child's needs and use airtight language.

If you supplement the state's plan with your own provisions — as experts recommend — use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation.

The Custody X Change app offers more than 140 parenting plan provisions in popular categories, all in the legal wording you need. Just select items and fill in the blanks. You can also create custom provisions.

The result is a professional document you can attach to your court form. It covers your child's varied needs and demonstrates your competence as a parent.

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