For most parents, nothing is more important to them then their children. That is why child custody matters can be some of the most intense issues for couples and judges to decide upon. When the parents of a child do not or will no longer live together, and they file documents in court seeking child custody or visitation, Missouri law also requires the parents to submit a proposed parenting plan.
Parenting plans include information on the child's custody and visitation arrangements, state how child-care costs will be allocated, establish a method for resolving disputes between the parents regarding the child, and delineate decision-making rights and responsibilities for each parent.
Once a parenting plan is signed by a judge it becomes legally binding, so it is important to have the assistance of an experienced Missouri family law attorney in creating a parenting plan.
Child Custody After Divorce in Missouri
In Missouri, the issues of both legal and physical custody of the child are considered. Judges generally prefer to award parents joint legal custody of the child, meaning that both parents will share the responsibility of making important decisions about the child's life like education, religion and healthcare. Physical custody refers to where a child will live, often the child will primarily reside with one parent (the custodial parent) and the other parent (the non-custodial parent) will have visitation.
Judges in Missouri must make child custody and visitation determinations that are in the best interest of the child, and they consider several factors, such as:
- The wishes of the parents
- The wishes of the child
- The willingness of each parent to actively participate as a mother or father
- The child's relationship with the parents and any siblings
- The willingness of the parent to allow and encourage meaningful contact with the other parent, if appropriate
- The child's current home, school and community
- The child's and parents' mental and physical health
- Any history of family violence or alcohol or drug abuse
Missouri Parenting Plans
To assist judges with child custody and visitation decisions, parents in Missouri are legally required to submit a parenting plan setting forth the arrangements the parents desire and consider in the best interest of the child. Under Missouri law, a parenting plan is a comprehensive document that must include:
- A written custody and visitation schedule detailing what the visitation access will be for major holidays, school holidays, the child's birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day, weekdays and weekends as well as suggested procedures for requesting a temporary variation from the schedule
- The times and places for transferring the child between parents and a transportation plan
- Suggested restrictions on access to a parent and reasons why it is requested
- A written plan specifying each parent's decision-making rights and responsibilities regarding the child, including educational decisions, health-care decisions and religious decisions
- Instructions on how educational information will be communicated from the school to both parents, how medical information will be conveyed and how emergencies will be handled
- A method for determining the child's extracurricular activities, how the expenses will be paid, how transportation will be handled and understanding their impact on each parent's custody and visitation rights
- Communication procedures and a dispute-resolution plan
- A written proposal on how the expenses of raising the child will be paid and shared, including child-care, educational, medical and extraordinary expenses
- A suggested amount of child support to be paid by each parent
- An election as to which parent will carry health insurance for the child
- Acceptable child-care arrangements and how the providers will be selected
- The role of grandparents and extended family members as well as the effect of remarriage
- Instructions on how the parenting plan may be revised and how often
An Attorney Can Help
The proposed parenting plan largely influences a judge's child-custody and visitation decisions, and it is an effective way for parents to convey their wishes. If you have children and are considering divorce, a skilled family law attorney can help you create a proposed parenting plan that presents your desired arrangements in a compelling, honest and effective manner.