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But is it right for you?

39388336_S.jpgThere are bills pending in the legislature that would make shared custody a presumption in Missouri law. On its face, this seems an unremarkable suggestion. Some may even wonder and think, isn't that already the way the law is written?

In Missouri, the standard for a custody determination is based on an eight-factor analysis listed in the statutes. These eight factors require that the judge evaluates a broad range of items, including the wishes of the parents, the needs of the children, how the children interact with the parent, issues relating to potential relocations and the wishes of the child or children. It also must take into consideration any issues of domestic violence or child abuse.

If the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, or the judge rejects the proposed agreement, the judge must then make detailed, specific findings relating to each of the eight factors, and how it influenced his or her custody determination.

The legislature added in 1998 a subdivision in the statute that it is "public policy" of the state to encourage both parents to be involved with their children.

In reality, if you and your former spouse can agree to cooperate in spite of your divorce, you will not need a statutory presumption. You have the power to agree that your child's "best interests" are most important, and you will put aside your personal differences with your former spouse to see that they are well served.

Make no mistake, working out a shared custody agreement, where you and your former spouse have your children roughly half of the time is a very significant commitment. Say you agree to Monday-Tuesday and your spouse gets Wednesday-Thursday, with alternate weekends.

Take a calendar and color in the days you will have your children. Then ask yourself, will that work? You will have to be there to get them to school, make lunches, wash clothes and take them to after school activities. Every week. For years.

If you can make it happen, your children will thank you.

Source: semissourian.com, "Missouri's shared-parenting bill supports children's best interests after divorce," Linda Reutzel, February 29, 2016

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