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Child Custody: Missouri's "Equal Visitation" Law

Just before the close of the 2016 session, the Missouri General Assembly passed House Bill 2055 and Senate Bill 964, which purports to give equal or substantially equal visitation time to divorcing parents with children.  The bill has to be signed by the governor in order for it to take effect on August 28, 2016, but let's take a look at what this bill proposes to do:

First, HB 2055 and SB 964 alter the definition of "joint physical custody" by changing the language from the current version of the statute from...

(3) "Joint physical custody" means an order awarding each of the parents significant, but not necessarily equalperiods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents...

to...

(3) "Joint physical custody" means an order awarding each of the parents approximate and reasonably equal periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents...

  Secondly, and more significant than the changes set forth above, the bill will require Judges to presume that a parenting or visitation plan that equalizes to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent is in the best interest of the child.  This provision creates a legal presumption that equal time is the best way to go and therefore must be ordered by the court, unless there is evidence presented to the contrary.  The bill also orders Missouri Courts to modify the "Schedule J" parenting plan to make alternating, week-to-week visitation the default parenting plan, unless one or both of the parents submit an alternative parenting plan.

The new law won't change existing custody orders and parenting plans.  You will have to go back to court to do that.  The change in the law alone won't be grounds for a custody modification.  So how will this potential new law affect domestic litigation?  We will have to wait and find out as Judges and lawyers are still dissecting the language of this bill.  And then Governor Nixon could always veto the bill, but there has been no indication that he will.

Please don't hesitate to contact our office if have any questions or concerns about how this potential new law could affect your rights and your family.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

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