Parenting group gives Missouri’s child custody laws a C+ grade

Last month, we wrote about an emerging trend in family law wherein shared child custody is the presumed starting point of custody negotiations. Research in recent years has confirmed the benefits of keeping both parents involved in their children’s lives after divorce, when possible. Fathers’ rights groups have also been pushing for changes to child custody laws and practices in an attempt to give fathers equal consideration.

Recently, a non-profit advocacy group called the National Parents Organization examined child custody laws in all 50 states and assigned a letter grade to each state. Both Missouri and Illinois received a C+, and no states earned an A.

What exactly were states graded on? According to the NPO’s website, the group is “focused on promoting shared parenting, where both parents have equal standing raising children after a separation or divorce.” States were graded on how well their custody laws promoted the outcome of shared child custody.

More specifically, state laws were evaluated on four criteria:

  • Whether shared parenting is expressly permitted
  • Whether statutes included policies that encouraged shared parenting
  • Whether a preference for shared parenting was expressed in the statutes
  • Whether the statutes contain a presumption of shared parenting

No states earned an A, and only two states were deemed bad enough to earn an F. Missouri and Illinois were among 18 states getting a C.

According to the evaluation of Missouri laws, “Missouri has no presumption of, and no clear statutory preference for shared parenting (joint legal custody and shared physical custody) for temporary or final orders.” In laymen’s terms, this means that Missouri’s child custody laws are not worded in a way that expresses preference for shared custody or the presumption that custody will be awarded jointly. This isn’t to say that such outcomes are impossible. They simply fall short of the explicit wording the NPO would prefer.

The report also notes that “Missouri statutes do not explicitly provide for shared parenting during temporary orders.”

Please check back next week as we examine the report in more detail. We’ll discuss how the NPO felt about the child custody laws in Illinois.

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