Child custody is the most emotional and traumatic part of most divorce cases. In the State of Missouri, there are two types of child custody that must be decided: Legal Custody and Physical Custody. The basis for determining each type of child custody is always what is in the “best interests of the child.”
Legal Custody refers to the major decision-making for the child. Each parent has the right to make day-to-day decisions regarding the child when the child is residing with that parent. These decisions include things like bedtimes, diet, etc. Legal custody refers to the more important decisions that must be made for the child’s welfare, such as choosing a child’s medical or daycare provider, religious upbringing, education, etc.
Typically, a court will grant both parents “joint” legal custody. This means that the parents must agree on all major decisions before action can be taken or a change may be made. In certain situations, a court will grant “sole” legal custody, which allows one parent the right to make all final major decisions regarding the child. Because each parent should have a say in the major decisions affecting their child, a court must make certain findings before it can award sole legal custody.
Physical Custody refers to the arrangements as to where and when the child will live, and what the schedule will be for each parent. Like legal custody, physical custody can be “joint” (shared by the parents) or one parent can be granted “sole” custody. It is important to understand that “joint” does not necessarily mean “equal” and “sole” custody does not mean that the other parent has no visitation or contact with the child.
Courts often order a “standard” schedule, where one parent will have the child every other weekend and one overnight each week, and the other parent having all other time. (This schedule is often referred to as the “Siegenthaler” schedule because Siegenthaler is the name of the family involved where this schedule was first outlined.) In addition to the “standard” schedule, parents must also decide how to divide up holidays and special days.
In my experience, most families are not “standard.” I work hard with my clients to ensure that they develop a parenting plan that works best for their particular situation. I believe it is vitally important that the parenting plan ordered for my client will best suit the needs of my client and the children involved.
If your custody plan is not working, or you are considering a dissolution, please contact me to set up a consultation.