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Missouri is making 50/50 Default for custody

CLove's picture

Custody agreements in Missouri could default to equal time with each parent — with exceptions — under a new House bill pre-filed earlier this month. 

HB 299 from returning state Rep. Wayne Wallingford would alter the state’s law on child custody agreements. If passed, the bill would add the presumption that awarding equal or near-equal custody time to each parent is in the best interest of a child, and the court would default to that arrangement. The presumption could be rebutted through a custody agreement from the parents or if a court finds that a pattern of abuse has occurred. 

“What we need to focus on is what’s best for the child,” Wallingford told The Missouri Times. “In a divorce, there tends to be a lot of fighting going on but not enough focus on what’s in the best interests of the child. So this bill says that custody will be equal as long as both parents are capable of it and keep to good moral values in the eyes of the law. This would fall by the wayside if one of the parents is found to be unfit in some way.”

Wallingford said a similar law was enacted in Kentucky in 2018, and he has read studies examining its effects on relationships between children and their parents. He said he believed the typical arrangement imposed by many courts could be harmful to families facing a custody battle.

“Quite a while ago a judge in Texas decided Thursdays and every other weekend would be fine, and then suddenly all the other judges looked to that decision, and that’s the way it’s been handled for quite some time,” he said. “It’s not fair to either one of the parents or the child. A child needs a mother and a father, but in most of these situations, you go into court as a parent and leave the court as a visitor. That really robs the child of that relationship.”

Wallingford sponsored the same bill in the Senate last year before reclaiming his old House seat in November. He said most of the legislature supported the bill in the upper chamber, though it passed the Families and Children Committee and was placed on the informal calendar a week before the Senate went into its extended hiatus in March. He expected to see it move forward during a more typical legislative session, he said. 

“That bill is my highest priority going into the House,” he said. “When it was carried on this side this year there weren’t any issues, so my hope is that it can pass through the House pretty readily, and hopefully it can be successful in the Senate as well. I think it’s what’s in the best interest of the child and sometimes the parents or the courts overlook that. It’s not about the man or the woman — it’s about the child they created between them, and that’s the important part of this issue.”

The 2021 legislative session begins Jan. 6.



Exjuliemccoy's picture

Wow, this guy Wallingford gets it.

"A child needs a mother and a father, but in most of these situations, you go into court as a parent and leave the court as a visitor. That really robs the child of that relationship.”

He didn't come right out and say FATHER ends up leaving as a visitor (cum wallet), which was clever of him, but we all know that's what usually happens.

This is a big step forward in the Fathers' Rights battle. 

CLove's picture

I didnt even think of the distinction, but I got this link from a fathers rights facebook group.

YES> the father seems in many cases to leave as a visitor. Especially our miliary fathers.

CLove's picture

What do you have custody wise right now?

LearsWife44's picture

My SD is 20 and lived in another state with her mom. I only see her 1 or 2 times a year 

hereiam's picture

Oh, so someone is starting to see that there might be something more important to the parent (father)/child relationship than just money? I mean, that seems to be the only thing that most family courts think the "non-custodial parent" (father) is good for. They don't take away the CP's (mother's) driver's license if they fail to "facilitate the relationship" with the other parent.



NoWireCoatHangarsEVER's picture

and our previous Govenor, Rick Scott, always vetoed it.  I think he had a lot of kickbacks and special interest groups of the divorce lawyer  associations lining his pockets to make it that way.  Here is hoping your state is different.

Thumper's picture

Finally good news for kids.

50 50 is good for many reasons, also keeps more eyes equally balanced on kids who may be abused...more accountability too for the parents.

Happy to hear this.

BUT it may not work out for all divorced families.