Legal Information: Missouri


May 9, 2022

What factors will a judge consider when deciding custody?

If the parents have not reached an agreement on all issues related to custody, it will be up to the judge to decide. When deciding custody, the judge will look at what is in the best interests of the child and will consider all of the following factors:

  • the wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
  • the needs of the child for a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship with both parents;
  • the ability and willingness of both parents to act in a way that considers the needs of the child;
  • the interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  • the child’s adjustment to his/her home, school, and community;
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;
  • whether either parent plans to relocate with the child;
  • the child’s wishes as to who should get custody, which could be told to the judge without the parents present;1 and
  • which parent is more likely to allow the child to have frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the other parent. Note: If either parent has violated the parenting plan without good cause, this will be held against that parent when the judge evaluates this factor.2

Any custody order must include a parenting plan that is submitted by the parties and approved by the judge, or one that is written by the judge if the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan.3

​1 MO ST §§ 452.375(2); 452.385
​2 MO ST §§ 452.375(2); 452.400(7)
3 MO ST § 452.375(9)

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