What determines the best interests of the child in custody cases?

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Child Custody on Thursday, February 5, 2015.

The child custody statute in Missouri makes it clear that public policy favors a continuation of the relationship between a child and both parents following dissolution of the marriage or a legal separation, because to do so is in the best interests of the child.

The statute directs courts to make decisions concerning custody that will encourage the participation of the both parents in the life of their child, provided that the presiding judge believes that to do so is in the child’s best interest.

The legislature through the statute did not provide judges with a specific definition of “best interests of the child.” Instead, it gave judges significant flexibility in deciding how to award legal and physical custody in order to accomplish the public policy goals of the state. Lawmakers left it up to judges to decide what arrangement would be best for a child on a case-by-case basis.

Although the definition of a child’s best interest may not be contained within the provisions of the Missouri custody statute, it does suggest factors that a judge should take into consideration. These include:

  • The wishes of the parents about custody, and the parenting plan proposed to the court
  • The willingness of each of the parents to participate in their parenting roles
  • The relationship and interaction of the child with the parents, or brothers and sisters
  • Whether one parent is unwilling or less likely to promote contact between the child and the other parent
  • Adjustment of the child to home, school and community
  • Mental and physical health of the child and the parents
  • Any history of abuse or domestic violence on the part of any of the parties
  • Plans by either parent to relocate with the child
  • The wishes of the child
  • Any criminal history of anyone residing in the home with either of the parents

This posting is offered as an overview of one aspect of the complex legal topic of child custody. It is not offered as legal advice, and it should not be used as such by anyone reading it.

Questions or concerns pertaining to child custody should only be addressed to an attorney who is qualified to offer legal advice and guidance.

Related Posts