When deciding on matters related to the child, the Missouri court will primarily make their decision based on what will be in the best interests of the child. The court will also examine these best interest factors when ruling on modification requests. In this blog, we will elaborate on the best interest factors a court will examine to decide child custody and to deviate from the child support guidelines.
What Are “the Child’s Best Interests” in Child-Related Cases?
The court generally believes that the best interests of the child are served through frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents, but they will examine a series of factors related to the child’s health, education, and welfare to make the final decision about child custody and support.
Determining Child Custody
Courts prefer to have parents work out custody arrangements with their attorneys, who will help them draft a proposal for approval by the court. If parents cannot negotiate an agreement, though, the courts will step in and make the decision. Under Missouri law, the court will examine the following factors of the child’s best interests to make the decision:
- each parent's wishes for custody;
- the child's need for a meaningful relationship with both parents;
- each parent's ability and willingness to perform their functions as mother or father for the child's needs;
- the child's interaction and relationship with parents, siblings, and anyone else who affects the child's best interest;
- which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the other parent;
- the child's adjustment to home, school, and community;
- the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- either parent's history of domestic violence;
- either parent's plans to relocate the child; and
- the child's wishes for custody if they are of a reasonable and mature age.
Note that both the parent-child relationship and cooperation between the parents are crucial factors.
Deviating from an Established Child Support Calculation
Like most states, Missouri establishes child support payment amounts based on a fixed calculation of income. More specifically, parents will supply information about their income, including alimony and unemployment benefits, as well as imputed income if they are willfully unemployed. These income ranges will align with fixed child support payment amounts established by the state. However, parents may request the court to adjust the amount if they have good reason. When deciding whether to deviate from the guidelines, the court will examine:
- the child's financial resources and needs;
- the parents' financial resources and needs;
- the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
- the child's physical/emotional condition and educational needs;
- the physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time the child spends with each parent and the expenses associated with the custody or visitation arrangements; and
- the parents' work-related childcare expenses.
These best interest guidelines are perhaps the most important deciding factors for a child-related family law issue. If you have questions about how your case might be evaluated based on these factors or have questions about how the court defines these factors, do not hesitate to contact Kallen Law Firm, LLC for legal guidance. We have plenty of experience handling child-related legal matters, and we can walk you through your initial child custody and support case or help you petition for modification on the grounds that your child’s best interests have changed.
Contact Kallen Law Firm, LLC to get started on your Missouri case today.