Legal Information: Missouri

Missouri Custody

Updated: 
January 1, 2024

What types of custody are there?

There are four main types of custody: 

  1. Joint legal custody is when the parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child. The parents are supposed to consult with each other when exercising their decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority.
     
  2. Sole legal custody is when one parent has the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child.
     
  3. Joint physical custody is when each of the parents has significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time with the child. Joint physical custody is supposed to be shared by the parents in a way that ensures the child has frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents.
     
  4. Sole physical custody is when the child primarily lives with one parent. The other parent may or may not have visitation with the child.1

1 MO ST § 452.375(1)-(3)

Who can get custody?

Custody can be given to either parent or to both parents.1 A judge cannot give preference to either parent because of that parent’s age, sex, or financial status. A judge also cannot give preference to either parent because of the age or sex of the child.2

In certain circumstances, custody or visitation can be given to someone else, known as a “third party.” In order for a non-parent to get third-party custody or visitation, the judge must believe that:

  1. it is in the best interests of the child to give custody or visitation to the third party; and
  2. either:
    • each parent is unfit, unsuitable, or unable to be a custodian; or
    • the well-being (welfare) of the child requires it.3

If the judge believes it is necessary to give custody or temporary custody to a non-parent, the first preference will be to give it to someone who is related to the child by blood (consanguinity) or marriage (affinity). If there is no relative willing to accept custody, then the judge can give custody to someone else who the judge believes is suitable and able to provide an adequate and stable environment for the child.4

​1 MO ST § 452.375(5)
​2 MO ST § 452.375(8)
​3 MO ST §§ 452.375(1)((4)); 452.375(5)((5)) 
4 MO ST § 452.375(5)((5))(a) 

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