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Some people mistakenly think that, in a divorce, the custody of the children will usually go to the mother of the children unless she doesn’t want custody or there is some extraordinary reason why she should not receive custody such as drug abuse or imprisonment. But that is not the case, and for years the courts in Missouri have not favored one gender over another. Instead, a Missouri family court judge will base his or her custody decision on the best interests of the child. In doing so, the judge may award physical and/or legal custody solely to one parent, or to both parents in a joint custody order. When sole custody is awarded, the other parent will lose custody. Below, we go through the list of factors a Missouri judge must evaluate in determining the best interests of the child to discuss why a parent might lose custody of their own children in a divorce.

The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and any proposed parenting plans

The burden is on each parent to inform the court that he or she wishes to retain custody of the child, and a failure to do this or to participate in creating a proposed parenting plan could create problems.

The child’s need for a relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of the parents to perform parental function

If you have been in a relationship with the child for the years leading up to the custody decision such that there is a dependence of the child on you, this should improve your chances. But if you not participated in the child’s life nor shown an ability or willingness to perform the functions of being a parent, your chances for custody will be lower.

The child’s relationship with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests

Similarly, the child’s ongoing relationship with any brothers or sisters, relatives, or community members will be a factor. If you cannot present an argument for why custody would positively affect those relationships, you will face a challenge.

Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent

Some parents think that attempting to keep the child away from the parent will help their chances. Unless there is a very strong reason for doing so – such as domestic violence – this may in fact hurt your chances.

The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community

Where the child is involved with school, church, sports, or other community programs, the court will favor the parent whose parenting would help foster rather than hinder those connections.

The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved

The courts will look at the mental and physical health of both parents, as well as other individuals in the household such as dating partners or family friends.

The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child

If one parent wants to move the child far away from their present residence, the court will look at this and specifically whether the move will have a negative effect on the child.

The wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian

Finally, the court may ask the child what he or she prefers, and the more mature the child is in both age and temperament, the more likely it will be that the court will weigh this factor heavily.

Talk to an Attorney Today About Your Custody Matter

The family law attorneys at The Law Store are here to help answer any questions about the custody process and give you the advice you need to help win a custody ruling in your favor. Our Free First AdviceTM program allows you to consult with one of our family law attorneys free of charge to discuss your concerns and lay out your options. Book an appointment today by dropping by The Law Store, calling us, or scheduling a service online.