Kansas City Child Custody


Overview: In general, child custody issues arise in one of 2 situations:

A married couple has children and now that they are divorcing,  they need to come up with a plan for what the children’s living situation will look like going forward, referred to as a “Parenting Plan” that will be incorporated into their marital settlement agreement and divorce decree;

A couple who has never been married has a child/children in common and whom do not, or are no longer living together and a “Parenting Plan” is needed to clarify how the child will be raised, how the parties will co-parent, and when the child will spend time with each parent. This situation requires the filing of a “Paternity Suit.” This does not always mean that the identity of the father is in question, it is simply the legal terminology used when two people have a child and have never been married.

Legally speaking, there are two types of custody. The terminology varies by State (legal, physical, primary, residential, custodial, etc.) but the principles are the same. I practice in Missouri and Kansas and will use Missouri’s terminology for explanation purposes:

Legal Custody

This term refers to decision-making power for the child. This has nothing to do with parenting time or visitation schedules, only decisions for the child’s general well-being.

Legal custody can be “Sole” or “Joint”. I will describe the differences below.

1. Sole Custody is exactly what it sounds like…ONE parent can be designated to make all routine and major decisions on behalf of the child.
So then it only follows that “Joint” Legal Custody translates to both parents making these types of decisions together, and no one parent has more say so than the other. Absent evidence of abuse or neglect, Courts favor the parents working together to have Joint Legal Custody.

2. “Joint” Legal Custody translates to both parents making these types of decisions together, and no one parent has more say so than the other. Absent evidence of abuse or neglect, Courts favor the parents working together to have Joint Legal Custody.

Major Decisions include but are not limited to:

  • What religion will my child practice?
  • What pediatrician will my child see?
  • What extra-curricular activities will my child participate in?
  • How will my child be disciplined?
  • What school will my child attend?
  • What child-care provider will I use?

Minor/Routine Decisions include but are not limited to:

  • What will my child eat for dinner?
  • What type of clothing will my child wear?
  • What time will my child go to bed?
  • What types of chores will my child be responsible for?

It’s important to understand the subtle and not so subtle differences in Sole vs. Joint Legal Custody so you know what to ask for in your initial pleadings and how to respond when answering pleadings you have been served with. 

Physical Custody

Physical Custody can be Sole or Joint.

1. Physical Custody is what most people think of when they hear the word “Custody.” It is the physical sharing of parenting time with the child. There is an unlimited number of ways that the time can be split and I have drafted some of the most odd parenting schedules you can think of, that worked perfectly for that family.

In the ideal situation, parents will come together and work amicably toward a compromised schedule that works for both parties’ work schedules, and the schedules of the children. However, more often than not, by the time someone is contacting an attorney it’s because for one reason or another, the parties cannot agree on the sharing of the parenting time, and neither side is having success reaching an agreement with the other.

The good news is, the majority of these cases settle without the need for a trial. Sometimes all it takes is having a third party help bring some logic and reason to an emotionally charged situation.

Like Legal Custody, Sole Physical Custody is a difficult judgment to obtain without strong evidence of abuse or neglect by the other parent.

a. Missouri law presumes that it is always in the best interest of the children, that they have FREQUENT AND MEANINGFUL contact with both parents, absent evidence that having such contact would be harmful or not in the best interests of the children.

b. This is known as a “rebuttable presumption.” The law presumes something is true until we provide the Court evidence that it’s not true. If you are seeking Sole Physical or Sole Legal Custody of your children, be sure to meet with  Kansas City Family Attorney Anthony Moreno and discuss what evidence you may have to strengthen your position for winning that outcome.