Can a Child in Missouri Choose Which Parent to Live With?

Divorce is difficult regardless of the circumstances, however, the emotional and procedural consequences of having shared children certainly add a lawyer of unparalleled difficulty that some couples have to navigate. Custody is a hit-button and highly contentious issue for many couples. If you are considering filing for divorce in Missouri, or are currently going through one, you may be very concerned about whether you will be able to retain custody rights of your children. You may also be wondering what weight if any, the children’s preferences have over a judges’ custody decision. We will explore those answers in this post. 

Does a Child’s Preference Carry Weight in a Missouri Custody Hearing? 

Before examining the way that judges arrive at custody decisions in Missouri, it is important to note that a judge will only make custody determinations in cases where the couple has been unable to arrive at a suitable arrangement on their own. Couples can utilize lawyers, mediation, arbitration, and other methods to negotiate their own custody agreement, which the court will then approve assuming it is in the best interest of the child. If, however, the parents are unable to agree, then the judge will weigh a number of factors–eight, to be exact–in making a decision of what custody arrangement would be in the best interest of the child. One of these eight factors is the child’s preference, however, the judge is not required to consider and weigh this factor. Moreover, in order to consider the child’s preference, the judge must determine that the child is sufficiently mature to have an intelligent opinion on the matter. In other words, it is never safe to assume that your child’s preference will affect the outcome of a custody hearing, but it certainly can be a relevant factor if the judge chooses to weigh it. 

Other Relevant Factors

Chances are, if your child would prefer to live with you, the other factors will also support this. In making a determination of what custody agreement would be in the child’s best interest, the judge will look at which parent can provide the most stable environment for the child, and which parent would require the least amount of changes and adjustments from the child’s current routine. For instance, if giving primary custody to one parent would require relocating the child, moving them away from family and friends, and requiring them to enroll in a new school district, this may be a factor in favor of granting primary custody to the other parent. A lawyer can help you present the strongest possible case in favor of granting you custody. Working with an attorney starting early on in the process can help you avoid costly mistakes which can significantly delay the process. 

Talk to the Johnson Law Firm 

If you are currently going through a divorce in Missouri and have concerns about retaining custody of your children, it’s important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the experienced child custody attorneys at Missouri’s Johnson Law Firm and schedule a consultation today.