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What Does the New “Equal Time” Custody Law Mean?

By Alisse C. Camazine

In the 2023 session, the Missouri legislature passed a bill that changed the law regarding child custody. Under the new law that goes into effect August 28, 2023, a divorce court must apply a “rebuttable presumption” that an award of equal time or approximately equal time is in the children’s best interests. The “presumption” part means that the court must start by presuming that the children’s interests are best served by the parents sharing their time equally. This “rebuttable” part means that parents have the opportunity to demonstrate to the court that equal time sharing is NOT in the children’s best interests. The court then has to decide what is truly in the children’s best interests by considering the following factors:

  1. The wishes of the children’s parents as to their custody;
  2. The needs of the children for a frequent, continuing, and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of the parents to perform their functions as mother and father;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the children with the parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the children’s best interests;
  4. Which parent is more likely to allow the children frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  5. The children’s adjustment to the children’s home, school, and community; 
  6. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;
  7. The intention of either party to relocate the residence of the children;
  8. The unobstructed input of the children, free of coercion and manipulation, as to the children’s custodial arrangement.  

Under this revised law, the courts are encouraged to enter a temporary parenting plan as early as practicable in a case. The temporary plan may be different from the final plan approved by the court.

It will be important to discuss with your attorney what evidence is the likeliest to persuade a court to rebut (overcome) the presumption for equal time if you believe such an order would be detrimental to your children. Every family is unique, and your lawyer will be in the best position to evaluate your reasons for the plan that you think is best for your children.

For questions about any family law matter, or to schedule an initial consultation, please contact one of the family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine, & Blumenthal, P.C.


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