Missouri recognizes the importance of parents having frequent and meaningful contact with their child and being involved in decision-making concerning their child's well-being. As such, in a divorce or legal separation proceeding, the court requires that, within 30 days of papers being served, the parents individually or jointly submit a parenting plan specifying physical custody, legal custody, and financial support arrangements (Revised Code of Missouri § 452.310(8)).

The parenting plan must be developed with the child's best interests in mind. Once the court approves it, it becomes legally binding, meaning both parents must adhere to it; otherwise, they could face legal consequences.

Below are the factors that must be considered when establishing a parenting plan in Missouri:

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child resides and how much time they spend with each parent. In Missouri, child custody can be either joint physical or sole physical. With joint physical custody, both parents spend a significant amount of time with the child – although the time may not be equally split between each parent. With sole physical custody, the child spends most of their time with one parent.

Concerning physical custody, the parenting plan should address:

  • How the child will spend time with each parent on major holidays
  • Which parent will have the child on school holidays
  • How special occasions will be handled, such as birthdays, Mother's Day, and Father's Day
  • What the child's weekday and weekend schedule will look like
  • When and where the child will be exchanged
  • Who will transport the child for parenting time
  • How variations to the schedule will be communicated and resolved

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the decision-making and responsibilities rights of each parent. Such decisions concern the child's health care, education, and welfare. As with physical custody, legal custody may be awarded as joint or sole.

The parenting plan should specify:

  • How parents will make educational decisions
  • How parents will exchange information from the school
  • How parents will make medical, dental, and health care decisions
  • How parents will communicate the child's medical conditions to one another
  • How parents will handle emergency medical situations
  • How the child's extracurricular activities will be determined
  • How parents will select child care providers
  • How parents will handle disputes about critical issues

Financial Support

Both parents are responsible for financially supporting their child – even if they are no longer together. Child support arrangements must account for expenses related to food, shelter, health care, and education.

The parenting plan should include provisions concerning:

  • How much child support each parent will pay
  • Which parent will maintain health insurance for the child
  • How parents will pay medical expenses not covered by insurance
  • How parents will pay educational expenses
  • How parents will pay child care expenses
  • How parents will pay transportation expenses

Speak with a Family Law Attorney

A divorce or legal separation involving a child or children can be emotional and complicated. You want to ensure that the arrangements you make concerning the care and well-being of your child are fair and just for all parties involved. Having a lawyer on your side throughout the process can help ensure that you consider all relevant factors when developing a parenting plan.

At Smith Law Offices, LLC, our St. Charles attorneys can guide you through the process and work to protect the best interests of you and your child. Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (636) 400-1177 or contacting us online today.