This new law, among one of the first states in the nation, requires that judges start from the presumption that a 50/50 parenting arrangement is in the best interests of the children when their parents are divorcing or separating. This presumption can be refuted when a 50/50 arrangement is not in the best interests of the children, but the judge starts by examining the 50/50 arrangement. Under the current law, the factors of child custody, in 452.375 RSMo are weighed and balanced by the judge in determining the child custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the children. While the judge will still be using the best interests factors, the judge will need to essentially start from the position of assuming 50/50 custody is best for the children and then examine why a particular case is not appropriate for that arrangement.
The new equal parenting time law was signed into effect by Governor Mike Parson. This law was developed from Senate Bill 35 (SB35) and indicates that equal, or approximately equal parenting time is the default best interests custody arrangement for children whose parents are divorcing or separating. This Bill was sponsored by St. Louis Democrat Sen. Karla May. Permitted exceptions to the 50/50 arrangement include if the parents reach an agreement to exercise a parenting arrangement other than 50/50 custody or if one parent proves that child abuse or domestic abuse/violence has occurred. This evidence needs to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence (which is the civil standard for evidence/proof).
What are the Downsides to Equal Parenting Time/Custody?
Clearly in Missouri, the courts now have to presume that equal, shared parenting time is now the ideal. But what are the downsides to this new presumptive/preferred arrangement?
50/50 Custody Can Be Disruptive and Confusing for Your Child
Children, in general benefit from spending time with both of their parents, as long as the parents are fit/good parents. However, 50/50 shared custody can be disruptive for children, especially if it means switching houses or apartments mid-week, every week, or it seems to the child that there are too many/too frequent back and forth periods. While it is important for children to spend time with both parents, sometimes it can be better for the child to spend most weekdays or school days with one parent, and weekends with the other parent.
School Drop-Offs and Pick-Ups Can Feel Complicated for Your Child
Sharing custody 50/50 generally means that both parents will have drop-off and pick-up responsibilities at a school or daycare on different days of the week. These school drop-offs and pick-ups can get difficult for parents with shifting schedules, especially when one parent lives significantly farther from the school than the other parent. They can also get confusing for a child when he or she must remember which days to get on which bus, or where to be at what times, based on the schedule of each parent.
Extracurricular Activities May Be Limited/Determined by the Parenting Schedule
When a child is going back and forth between two parents’ homes regularly, either week to week or on varying days of the week, it can be difficult for a child to participate in scheduled extracurricular activities. After-school classes and sports are often held at scheduled times or days of the week. Even if both parents’ homes are in the same school district, it might be difficult or impossible for the child to attend all of the events associated with a particular activity or sport if it requires more travel/practices and games at varying times. For example, if a child plays baseball and practices four days a week, the child might have to skip a couple days of practice while at the other parent’s house.
Travel Times Can Be Frustrating
Travel times can be frustrating for kids and parents when custody is shared 50/50. In these types of custody arrangements, children and parents frequently do multiple exchanges in a short duration of time and this can spend result in hours spent in the car each. While it is important for kids and parents to spend time together, a 50/50 arrangement can lead to a large amount of commuting time. Those frustrations ultimately may spill over into the parents’ co-parenting relationship, as well as into the relationship between the child and parent.
Parents Will Be Required to Have a Larger Amount of Contact
When parents share 50/50 custody, those parents usually must have more contact with one another through pick-ups and drop-offs and the need for communication than they would otherwise need to have through a less than 50/50 schedule. Many parents are able to co-parent effectively and work together through these transitions. However, many divorcing parents still have contentious relationships with one another and thus, it is not best for the children to be exposed to frequent interactions between the parents. When those parents are seeing one another regularly, contentious issues may be made more difficult by the parents seeing one another.
Difficult Child-Parent Dynamics Can Become Worse
In some situations, children are better off spending more time with one parent than the other due to certain child-parent dynamics. This is often true with older kids. If a child has a more contentious relationship with one of the parents, it may not be best for the child to spend significant time with such a parent. While this is not a reason to limit that parent’s custody in theory, it might be a good reason to avoid an equal or 50/50 custody arrangement. Difficult child-parent dynamics might improve with a custody arrangement other than 50/50 shared parenting, where the child and parent get some breaks from one another
Contact a Family Lawyer Today.
If you anticipate going through a divorce or other child custody matter in Missouri and you are concerned about how the new equal parenting time presumption will affect your family, please call our firm today to discuss your case and situation. Call Pingel Family Law at (816) 208-8130 today!