Child custody disputes can be traumatic for everyone involved especially the children. It is better for your children if you can negotiate a child custody arrangement with the children's other parent. When you are in the midst of a divorce or separation this isn't always possible. Issues surrounding child custody can become very contentious and can present some of the most difficult emotional challenges you may ever face. Our attorneys will stand up for your interests and help negotiate a custody agreement that best meets your children's best interests now and in the future.

Courts in Missouri encourage frequent and continuous contact between the child and both parents so long as it serves the best interests of the child. In highly-contested child custody cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child or to determine what is in the child's best interests.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is where the children will physically live. Joint or shared physical custody would be an arrangement where a child lives part of the time with one parent, and the rest of the time with another. Joint legal custody means that the parents jointly make major decisions on the child's behalf, despite separation. On occasion, one parent will be designated as having primary physical custody or sole physical custody, with the other parent being awarded visitation.

Missouri courts have a strong and distinct interest in making sure that children of divorce and separation have frequent and meaningful contact with both parents. The parents are both encouraged to continue sharing in the responsibilities and joys that come with raising a child.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is a term that refers to who will make important decisions in the child's life, such as decisions about the child's education, medical treatment and religious upbringing. "Joint legal custody" describes a common and presumptive arrangement where both parents are required to collaborate in decision making involving major issues for the children.

There is a presumption in Missouri that sole legal custody is a type of arrangement that is not in the best interests of children because one parent alone will be given the exclusive right and responsibility to make the important decisions mentioned above. Sole Legal Responsibility generally will not be awarded unless the court believes that one of the parents is unfit to make decisions affecting the children's best interests.

Missouri Courts will consider the following custody arrangements:

1. Joint physical custody and joint legal custody to both parents

2. Joint physical custody to both parents and sole legal custody to one parent

3. Joint legal custody to both parents with sole physical custody to one parent

4. Sole custody to either parent

5. Third party custody or visitation


Missouri statutes lays out several helpful factors that courts can consider when they have to make often difficult decisions regarding custody of and access to children. Among these factors are:

1. The parent who is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the non-custodial parent (the parties are encouraged to facilitate the child's relationship with both parents)

2. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents and the child (the court must determine where the best interests of the children lies and will act accordingly)

3. The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home (all things being equal, courts generally favor a more stable environment for children of divorce or separation)

4. The moral fitness of the parents

5. The mental and physical health of the parent

6. Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse

7. Any other factor that the court considers to be relevant


While most noncustodial parents have the right to visit with their children, these rights are by no means absolute. A Missouri court can suspend normal visitation rights under grievous circumstances. They'll usually give you an opportunity for rehabilitation or they may order supervised visitation in the presence of a third party to protect your child. When normal visitation rights are revoked, it is customary for the court to recommend some form of parenting time, as long as the relationship could have a positive impact on their child.

Experienced Service and Legal Counsel

Our goal at West County Family Law is to provide the highest quality of experience, service and legal counsel. With more than 65 years of experience, attorneys Case & Rajnoha are capable of handling many types of legal matters. Founded in 1975, West County Family Law's trademark has been prompt, personal attention. Our success has been our dedication to our clients and protecting their best interests and rights. Our clients deserve to be well-represented, with quality legal services provided by a dedicated team of attorneys and paralegals. We pride ourselves in our personal service by making sure we are available for our client throughout the legal process.

We're Here to Help You

We seek to help you through the legal problem confronting you. The first step is an easy one: call us for a free telephone consultation at (636) 861-1111 to speak with our Ballwin family and criminal law attorneys. You can also contact us online.

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West County Family Law is located in Ballwin, Missouri, and serves the cities of St. Louis, Chesterfield, Fenton, Valley Park, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Webster Groves, Manchester, Eureka, Hillsboro, Maryland Heights, Town and Country, Ellisville, Frontenac, Wildwood, Ladue and Crestwood. We also serve other communities in St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, West County and South County.