Joint custody doesn’t necessarily mean equal parenting time

Divorce is typically a significantly disruptive event for everybody in the family, both couples and their children. Certainly, children are particularly vulnerable in the divorce process, and need the emotional and financial support of both parents during and after the process. The arrangement a couple has regarding parenting time can make a difference.

Under state law, there are two different categories of custody a family court has to look at when determining custody arrangements: legal custody and physical custody. The difference is that physical custody concerns which parent has possession and care of the child at what times, whereas legal custody refers to decision-making rights and responsibilities.

Numerous studies have shown that children generally do better when they have a supportive, ongoing relationship with both parents after divorce. To have that kind of relationship, parents have to have the ability to be physically present to their children.

While joint physical custody can be beneficial for children of divorced couples, Missouri law does not currently provide for equal parenting time. The statutory language is that joint physical custody involves “significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents.” The aim of state law, at present, is to ensure that the child has “frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents.”

Missouri lawmakers have considered legislation to change the law to ensure that joint physical custody involves equal parenting time. In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic, and why it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney in child custody proceedings.

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