Until the 1970s, the tender years doctrine could have determined the child custody outcomes. Mothers typically obtained full custody of children, especially young children. Divorce fathers had extremely limited rights. Today, Missouri’s child custody law is officially gender-neutral. Some vestiges of the tender years doctrine remain, but at best, it’s only a presumption in favor of caregivers who are normally mothers.
“Custody” usually refers to both physical custody (where the children live) and legal custody (which parent makes important decisions). Whether you are a divorcing father or mother, you have important rights in both these areas, a Liberty family lawyer can advocate for your rights.
Physical Custody Divisions
Until recently, most non-custodial parents had physical custody every other weekend and on every other holiday. This model still works very well in many cases. However, it usually results in about a 70-30 time division. Furthermore, the schedule has many moving parts. Parents often have a hard time managing it and children may have a hard time adjusting to it.
So, in recent years, some non-traditional parenting timeshare divisions have been gaining popularity. Some examples include:
- Empty Nest: The children always remain in the same place, usually the marital home, and the parents alternate residences based on a timeshare schedule. This setup is usually very good for the children, but it’s obviously only workable between the parents in limited situations.
- Block Scheduling: The children spend a week or two with Parent A, a week or two with Parent B, and then the cycle repeats. Except for some adjustments around major holidays, this predictable schedule stays in place twelve months a year.
- Extended Weekend: Over time, small changes make a big difference. The extended weekend model puts this principle into practice. Starting weekends on Thursdays and ending them on Mondays results in a much more even parenting time division.
If the parties cannot agree on a physical custody division, the judge will assign one based on the best interests of the children.
The Decision-Making Process
Non-custodial parents have input into decisions like the child’s physician, school, and so on. The problem is that these matters often end in a 1-1 tie, and someone must be a tie breaker.
Therefore, to protect the interests of both parents, many attorneys include specific language in divorce decrees. Examples include, “The child shall attend XYZ School,” or, “The children will be raised Jewish.” To alter these provisions a parent must legally modify the decree.
What rights do non-custodial parents have?
Non-custodial parents are still crucial figures in their child’s life and are designated specific periods of parenting time. When joint legal custody is in place, they have a right to help make important decisions at all times.
Can children choose where they live in MO?
The children’s choice is just one child custody factor. There are many others.
How often should custody provisions be modified?
Since some families change frequently, some families often modify their parenting plans. The law requires a substantial and continuing change to occur before a modification can take place.