Missouri Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The laws about Missouri custody and parenting plans are found in Chapter 452 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

Here are some guidelines from the laws to help you make your parenting plan.

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Types of custody

Legal custody is the responsibility and authority to make decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the child. Joint legal custody is when parents make decisions together. Sole legal custody is when one parent makes the decisions.

Physical custody is the time each parent spends with the child. Joint physical custody is when the child lives with each parent for significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time. Joint physical custody should give each parent frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the child.

Sole physical custody is when the child resides with one parent and visits the other parent.

You can have a combination of joint and sole legal and physical custody.

Required parenting plan

Missouri requires a written parenting plan for all child custody cases.

Parents can negotiate a plan and submit it together to the court. The court will approve the parenting plan if it finds it to be in the best interest of the child. Most plans that parents submit together are approved by the court.

If you and the other parent can't agree on a plan, each parent must submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. The judge will then decide on a plan for you. The judge may accept either parent's plan or create a new plan.

What to include in your parenting plan

You must make a parenting plan with the other parent or make one on your own to submit to the court.

Your parenting plan should include:

  • A specific, written custody and visitation schedule
  • A specific, written plan for how parents will share and divide legal custody
  • Information about education and extracurricular activities
  • Information about health care and how health care providers will be chosen
  • Information about child care providers and how the providers will be chosen
  • Communication procedures between the parents
  • A method for resolving disputes when the parents disagree on the plan
  • How the parents will share and divide expenses for health insurance, health care, child care, education, transportation, etc.
  • The suggested amount of child support to be paid by each parent
Temporary parenting plan

When parents' proposed plans are different, they can't resolve their differences, or if either parent fails to file a proposed plan, the court will order a temporary parenting plan.

The temporary plan contains all of the required information for a plan and is in effect until the parents go to court to get a permanent plan. The temporary plan will not create a preference for a final plan.

Factors that affect the best interest of the child

The court will decide on a parenting plan based on what is best for the child.

Here are some factors the court considers when deciding what is best for the child:

  • The wishes of the parents about custody
  • The proposed parenting plan submitted by both parents
  • The child's need for a meaningful relationship with both parents
  • The ability of each parent to perform their function as mother and father
  • The child's relationship with parents, siblings, and other significant people
  • Which parent will allow the child frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent
  • The child's adjustment to home, school, and community
  • The physical and mental health of all individuals involved
  • The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child
  • The wishes of the child as to the child's custodian
  • Any history of abuse or domestic violence

You should consider these factors as you make your parenting plan. If you go to court, you should be prepared to show the judge that you considered these factors to make a plan that is best for your child.

The court will not consider the following factors when deciding on custody matters:

  • Either parent's age
  • Either parent's sex
  • Either parent's financial status
  • The age of sex of the child
Ways the court awards custody

When the court awards custody, it will first consider joint physical and joint legal custody to both parents. If the court decides this is best for the child, the judge may designate one parent's home as the primary residence for mailing and educational purposes.

Joint physical and joint legal custody will not be denied just because one parent opposes it.

If the court doesn't find joint physical and legal custody to be best for the child, it will consider an arrangement of joint physical custody with one parent granted sole legal custody. One parent's home will be designated as the primary residence for mailing and educational purposes.

Next, the court will consider joint legal custody with one parent granted sole physical custody (the other parent will be granted visitation) or sole legal and physical custody to either parent.

The public policy of the State of Missouri is that it is in the best interest of a child to have frequent, meaningful, and on-going contact with both parents, except in cases where it would not be best for the child.

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The top fifteen cities in Missouri (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Independence, Columbia, Lee's Summit, O'Fallon, St. Joseph, St. Charles, Blue Springs, St. Peters, Florissant, Joplin, Chesterfield, Jefferson City.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your Plan