When parents divorce or separate, decisions regarding the custody of the children are often the most emotionally charged. As an experienced Missouri family law attorney, I will walk you through the distinctions between joint custody and sole custody under Missouri laws.

Understanding Custody

Child custody comprises two key components: legal custody, which refers to decision-making rights over significant aspects of a child's life, and physical custody, which pertains to where the child lives.

Joint Custody in Missouri

Joint custody implies that both parents share rights and responsibilities. Missouri law prefers joint custody arrangements, provided they serve the best interests of the child.

Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share decision-making rights regarding the child's education, health, and general welfare.

Joint Physical Custody: The child spends substantial time living with both parents, though not necessarily equal time.

Sole Custody in Missouri

In contrast, sole custody means one parent holds all rights and responsibilities.

Sole Legal Custody: One parent makes all significant decisions regarding the child's upbringing without needing to consult the other parent.

Sole Physical Custody: The child resides solely with one parent. The noncustodial parent might still have visitation rights.

Choosing Between Joint and Sole Custody

The determining factor for custody decisions in Missouri is the "best interests of the child". The court considers numerous factors, including:

- Parenting skills of each parent
- Child's relationship with each parent
- Each parent's willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent
- Child's adjustment to home, school, and community


Understanding the differences between joint and sole custody can be critical for families going through separation or divorce. A skilled Missouri family law attorney can provide valuable guidance and representation to protect your rights and the best interests of your children.