Child Custody, Visitation and Support - Not long ago, most state statutes and case law gave a clear custodial preference toward mothers.  Such gender favoritism was determined to be a violation of due process and equal protection.  Consequently states rewrote their laws and courts issued new judgments that predetermined the same results in gender-neutral language.

Joint Custody - As a matter of public policy, Missouri law now favors joint custody with liberal "parenting time" for both father and mother. Of course today's courts can no more split the baby than Solomon.  Therefore, despite the name, in the majority of cases, modern Joint Custody looks very little different than years past where mom got custody and dad was granted visitation.

Parenting plans - A parenting plan is an order of the Circuit Court that specifies all the issues relating to the rearing of minor children in accord with their "best interests."  It is much more than simply a matter of custody and visitation, but also covers issues of support, insurance, schooling, religion, athletics and just about any other question parents might like to resolve.  As in any agreement, the more precise and comprehensive, the better it is.  At least so long as it's written in plain language that non-lawyers can understand.  Think of it as Robert Frost's good fence that makes good neighbors.

Parents and children in a harmonious visitation planVisitation - Only in the rarest of cases is "visitation" even applicable.  Visitation and physical custody have been morphed into a single euphemism called "parenting time."  Visitation applies in those rare cases where a court awards sole physical child custody to one parent or even a third-party such as grandparents.  In such cases, the court may grant unsupervised visitation, supervised visitation by the parent under the responsibility of another legal adult or even a professional service, or deny visitation altogether.  As a matter of public policy, courts are directed to grant visitation in the least restrictive manner that will safely promote the children's best interests while also nurturing and furthering the natural affection between children and their parents.

Child Support - There really isn't a great deal of latitude in determining child support.  It has been dictated by the Missouri Supreme Court and is very formulaic.  It is based on the incomes of the mother and father, the number of children, parenting time spent in the care of each parent, any special needs of the children, and extra child-rearing expenses like daycare, insurance, private school, etc.  In probably 99% of cases, the "presumptive child support amount" will be awarded by the court unless there is express agreement between the parents that the presumptive amount is "unjust and inappropriate" considering the "best interests" of the child.

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