Missouri Child Custody: Is it a “Mother State” or a “Father State?”

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Summer Masterson-Goethals

Summer Masterson-Goethals
Consumer and family lawyer, former legal aid attorney and Missouri Bar Leadership Academy member, Springfield Business Journal 40 under 40 Honoree.

Summer Masterson Goethals

Is Missouri a Mother State or a Father State?

Are you undergoing a divorce in Missouri and worried about child custody? Whether the mother or the father has more custody rights might also concern you.

Some states favor the mother when it comes to child custody. However, Missouri recognizes the father-and-child relationship and gives both parents a fair chance at custody. In most cases, the court will seek to grant joint custody unless one parent is unfit.

This article explores who gets custody of the child between the mother and the father. If you are involved in a child custody case, consider contacting child custody lawyers for help.

Is Missouri a “Mother State” for Custody?

Missouri does not give preferential treatment when it comes to child custody. The law considers the best interest of the child when determining child custody.

Although there is no legal discrimination, it may be more difficult for fathers to obtain child custody. For instance, the presumed father will need to prove the child’s paternity. Nonetheless, more fathers are obtaining custody of their children due to increased awareness.

The law requires that the paternity of a child be established before fathers can pursue custody. A father whose paternity is not in question is automatically presumed to be the father, such as when they are married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth. However, a father would be required to take a paternity test if they were not married to the mother when the child was born.

Depending on the parent who provides an appropriate environment for the child, the court could give physical custody to one parent while the other gets visitation rights. The court could also determine child support depending on the financial ability of each parent.

If you are involved in a child custody case, consider talking to a family law attorney to help you in your custody case.

Can a Mother Take a Child out of State Without the Father’s Consent in Missouri?

A custodial parent who wishes to relocate a child for more than 90 days must notify the non-custodial parent. Temporary absence from the permanent residence is not considered to be relocation. When a mother moves a child from their permanent home for more than 90 days without notice, she will risk losing custody of the child.

Is Missouri A 50-50-State for Child Custody?

Missouri courts seek the child’s interest during custody determinations. The court assumes that it would be ideal if both parents could spend time with the child and make decisions together. Even when joint custody is granted, parents do not often spend equal time with the child.

The custodial parents spend more time with the child, while the non-custodial parent gets visitation rights. However, they will be required to pay child support. A court could determine the child support obligation based on the financial ability of each parent.

However, if the court finds you an unfit parent, it could limit your chances of getting custody. An unfit parent could be violent or suffer from drug addiction, making them unsuitable to raise a child. A parent who neglects their children or fails to provide sufficient care could be deemed unfit to raise them.

Masterson Law has lawyers who are well-versed in child custody laws. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.

How are Child Custody Battles Resolved in Missouri?

According to Missouri law, the circuit court determines child custody according to the interests of the child. Therefore, the court focuses on the needs of the child. The parent who provides the appropriate environment is likely to get custody.

Consequently, a court could award sole custody to one parent if the other is abusive, neglectful, has a drug or alcohol addiction, or is otherwise unfit.

When determining child custody, parents have priority over other relatives. However, other relatives can have full or shared custody of the child. When both parents are absent or unfit, the court could grant custody to a relative, such as a grandparent.

Legal Custody

In Missouri, the person who gets legal custody of the child is responsible for making decisions for the child.

In Missouri, the person who gets legal custody of the child is responsible for making decisions for the child. A joint legal custody arrangement means that both parents make decisions about the child, even if the child lives with one parent.


Physical Custody

With physical custody, the parent is legally responsible for caring for their child every day. If the court awards joint physical custody, both parents will have significant time to live and spend with the child.

Sole physical custody means the child lives and spends more time with the custodial parent while the non-custodial parent gets visitation rights.

Paternity Judgment

f the father was not married to the mother when the child was born, a court might require proof of paternity before enforcing custody rights.

Parents can voluntarily establish paternity by:

  • Filing an affidavit declaring the child’s father
  • Including the father’s name on the birth certificate of a child
  • The father obtaining written admission from the mother
  • The father covering medical costs during pregnancy
  • The father supporting the child

Sometimes court judgments may not be in your favor. Consider talking to a family law attorney to know the options you might have legally.

How Can an Attorney Help?

The custody process can be emotional, especially if you are going through a separation or divorce. You also want a good outcome for your child to ensure they are raised in a safe environment.

Talking to a lawyer could help you understand your options in child custody hearings. Lawyers at Masterson Law understand the challenges in child custody hearings and are willing to listen and represent you in your custody hearing.

In addition to assisting you with all the paperwork, they will file it for you, saving you the hassle of trying to do it yourself and ensuring that it is filed properly so that a court does not dismiss your case. Most importantly, the lawyers will help you prove your case for great outcomes.

Masterson Law has lawyers who practice child custody laws, and our lawyers could help in your case. Schedule a free consultation now!