Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Child Custody in Missouri: Defined- Part 1: Legal Custody

            Potential clients often contact me telling me that they want to fight for sole custody or joint custody of their children.  Often, after I explain to them how Missouri defines child custody, they either change their goals or realize that the label, in some cases, is not nearly as important as the details.
            So how does the state of Missouri look at custody? First, there are two components in Missouri to child custody:  legal custody and physical custody.
            Legal custody has to do with decision making as to important aspects of the child’s life- education, medical, religious upbringing and in some cases, sports and activities. 
            If the parents have joint legal custody, they will each have an equal say in all of the decision making, and they need to discuss and agree upon any educational, medical or religious decisions.  Judges and legislature of Missouri prefer that parents share joint custody if possible because it is believed that a parent that has an equal say in his or her child’s life will be more likely to stay involved as a parent than one that feels “shut out”.
            There are situations, however, where decisions cannot be made together. If there was domestic violence during the marriage or relationship there may be a court order preventing communication, or the parents may just have so much animosity toward each other that they just cannot communicate.  In some cases a court may determine that one parent fails to exercise good judgment, or that a parent has unilaterally made the decisions without letting the other weigh in.  In both of these situations the other parent may be granted sole legal custody.
            If a parent has sole legal custody, he or she is (unless prevented by court order) still supposed to discuss any potential decisions with the other parent.  However the parent with sole legal custody may make the ultimate decision if there is disagreement.
            In a sole legal custody situation, both parents are still allowed equal access to all school and medical records.  Both parents may speak with teachers and medical professionals and show up at doctor appointments, parent teacher conferences and activities. Any exclusion in these situations would need to be addressed specifically in the parenting plan. 

For questions about child custody contact The Law Office of Barbara Graham or call us at 314-725-7600.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


The unstable and unpredictable job market in Missouri often makes it necessary for a person to move to another state to pursue employment.  This can be particularly troubling if that person is a divorced parent.

Missouri (as well as most other states) has somewhat restrictive requirements when it comes to relocating your residence if you and your former spouse share custody of children.  First there is a notice requirement, in which you need to inform the other parent of your proposed move, in writing, at least 60 days prior to the move.  Some very specific information is required in this notice.

After the notice is sent, the other parent may consent to the move, which can then proceed, often with some changes in visitation schedules or transportation of the children.

But what happens if your former spouse objects to the move? Then it is up to the court to decide whether the proposed relocation will be in your children’s best interests.

Judges have told me that they dread these types of cases because they often have to choose between two good parents and one will clearly come out the loser in the end.

In addition to moving for employment, parents often need to relocate to remarry, or to be closer to family, or even to be in a better school district for the children.   In this mobile society, relocation is common but by no means easy if you have children in common with someone.

If you find yourself in a relocation situation, on either side, you need to have experienced representation as early in the process as possible.  Call Barbara Graham at 314-725-7600 or email at barb@BLG-Law.com