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Missouri Child Custody, Child Support and Visitation Law

To fully understand Missouri law, it may be necessary to read and interpret statutes with case law and regulatory law. It is also important to know if law is up to date. For these and other reasons, it is always best to consult with a qualified family law attorney to know how the law applies to your particular situation. The following legal summaries are not intended as legal advice and should not be relied on as such. They are intended only as an introduction to the way that the law functions in these areas.

Child Support in Missouri

The laws of Missouri governing child support, child custody, and child visitation are contained in the Missouri Revised Statutes, available here.

In Missouri, a court may order either or both parents owing a duty of child support, regardless of the misconduct in the marital relationship, to a child to pay an amount reasonable and necessary for the child’s support.

In determining the child support amount, the court will consider all the relevant factors, including:

  • • Financial needs and resources of the child
  • • Financial needs and resources of each parent
  • • Standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved
  • • Living and legal custody arrangements made for the child, to include the time that each parents spends with the child and the expenses incurred towards custody or visitation arrangements for the child.
  • • Reasonable work related child care expenses made by each parent
Child support ends as given under sub-section 3 of section 452.340 of the Revised Statutes under the following circumstances:
  • • when the child dies
  • • marries
  • • takes up an active duty in the military
  • • becomes self-supportive, provided that the custodial parent has removed the child from his or her parental control and the consent for this has been taken implicitly or explicitly
  • • turn 18 years
The child support could be extended beyond 18 years of age, if the child is still attending secondary school program and the support will continue till he or she finishes the program or reaches 21 years of age, whichever occurs first. Child support could also extend up to 21 years, if the child has been found to be physically or mentally incapacitated from supporting itself, or has become insolvent and is unmarried, as provided under sub-section 4 of section 452.340 of the Revised Statutes.

The Missouri Supreme Court has laid child support guidelines that will aid the Court in computing the child support amount. These guidelines will be adhered to in all child support matters except if applying such guidelines is proving to be unjust and inappropriate and will not be in the best interests of the child.

A link to the Missouri State Government site, with a child support obligation schedule is found here.

Child Custody in Missouri

Missouri recognizes four basic forms of child custody: joint custody, joint-physical custody, third party custody and sole custody.

As explained under sub-section 2 of section 452-375 of the Revised Statutes, ‘Joint Legal Custody’ means that the parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child.

“Joint Physical Custody” under sub-section 3 of section 452-375 of the Revised Statutes means awarding each parent significant but not necessarily equal duration of time to live with the child or is allowed to supervise and take care of his or her child. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of maintaining frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents;

“Third-Party Custody” under sub-section 4 of section 452-375 of the Revised Statutes means the custody is awarded to a third party designated other than the natural parents of the child.

“Sole custody” of a child is given to one parent of the child.

Missouri law spells out eight specific factors that must be considered in making any custody determination:

  • • the wishes of the child and parenting plan proposed by the parents
  • • the needs of child, to what extent does the child requires to frequently or continually meet both the parents and the willingness of the parents to actively perform his or her parental duties towards the child
  • • the interrelation and interrelationship of the child with his parents, siblings and other person who many significantly contribute to the child’s best interests
  • • which parent is willing to facilitate the child’s visit and help in maintaining the child-parent relation with the other parent
  • • the child’s adjustment to his or her school, home and community
  • • the mental and physical health of all those involved
  • • intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child
  • • wishes of the child on who should be his or her custodian

Child Visitation in Missouri

Visitation rights are granted to non-custodial parent to visit his or her child by the Court, unless it finds that there has been a history of domestic violence or there is a danger to his life or will impair his emotional development.

Visitation rights will also be denied if it finds the non-custodial parent has been found guilty or pleaded guilty of committing offences in which the child was the victim or has been convicted for felony. In cases where there are such incidents, the visitation rights if granted, will be under supervised visitation only. "Supervised visitation" could be provided under subsection 3 of section 452-400 of the Revised Statutes. Supervised visitation is visitation which takes place in the presence of a responsible adult appointed by the court for the protection of the child.

The grandparent can seek visitation rights from the court and visitation rights can be granted under the following circumstances:

  • • When the parents have filed dissolution of marriage, the grandparent has the right to intervene in the proceedings concerning visitation rights and also has the right to seek modification in the visitation rights included in the final decree of dissolution of marriage.
  • • When one parent dies and the surviving parent denies visitation to the parent of the deceased parent
  • • If a grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation for six months within twenty four months period, immediately preceding the filing of petition seeking visitation rights
  • • If a grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation to the child for a period exceeding ninety days

The court shall decide visitation rights of grandparent if it finds that the granting of such rights would be in the best interests of the child or if it would endanger the child's life or impair his or her emotional development.

A guardian ad litem for the child can also be fixed that will participate in the proceedings wherein the visitation rights are being sought by the grandparent. The visitation right granted to the grandparent will terminate upon the adoption of the child.