When two parents divorce in Missouri, the courts are most concerned with how the ending marriage will affect the parties' children. Missouri divorce laws use a standard called "best interests of the child" to decide what custody arrangement will be the least disruptive and most beneficial to the kids. Child support is considered a right of the child--not a whim of the parents--and is calculated based on a shared income model.
State divorce laws in Missouri define two types of legal custody--joint and sole. The preferred model for the courts is a joint custody arrangement, where both parents agree to work together and make shared decisions that are in the child's best interest. If sole legal custody is awarded to one parent, that parent will be in charge of making the final decision regarding the child, to include medical, educational and religious concerns. A parent who does not have legal custody of the child still has visitation rights.
A Missouri divorce judge can grant joint physical custody of the child to both spouses or sole physical custody to either spouse. State laws allow the judge to consider a number of factors while making a custody ruling. These factors include the wishes of the parties, the wishes of the child, the child's adjustment to his current residential situation and the child's relationship with other family and nonfamily members that may live in his home. A shared physical custody arrangement works best when the parents maintain residences that are close to one another.
Divorcing parents in Missouri are required by law to file a Parenting Plan with the court that details the amount of parenting time each will have with the child. This includes weekdays and weekends, holidays and vacations. Many parties use a standard plan where the child spends every other weekend with the non-residential parent as well as alternating holidays and vacations. However, parents may choose to apportion visitation time in a way that best suits their family as long as it is not disruptive to the child.
The following factors are considered in the determination of child support under Missouri divorce laws: needs and resources of child, needs and resources of parents, inferred standard of living and custody arrangements. A formula based on the income and obligations of both spouses is used to determine child support. In most cases, the parent who does not have physical custody pays support to the parent who does. By law, support payments must be made until the child dies, marries, enters the military, becomes self-supporting or otherwise reaches an age of majority.