Determining a child custody arrangement and parenting plan with a detailed parenting time schedule is one of the many issues parties are confronted with during a divorce. Custody issues can easily turn into the most contentious issues during the divorce.

Courts in both Missouri and Kansas consider a list of statutory factors when determining the child custody arrangement. One of the most common misconceptions is that there is a magic age where children can decide with which parent they want to live or what the parenting schedule should be. This is not accurate, and prior to becoming adults, the children do not get to make those decisions themselves. However, the courts in both Missouri and Kansas will take into account a child’s desires as a factor in making custody determinations.

Missouri courts are required to consider “[t]he wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian.” Similarly, Kansas courts consider “the desires of a child of sufficient age and maturity as to the child’s custody or residency.”

The statutes of both states lay out many additional factors for Judges to consider when determining custody, so the desires of a child are only one factor. It is ultimately the responsibility of the court to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, some factors may be given more weight than others based on the facts of each case.

The weight of the child’s opinion or preference can also differ depending on the age of the child. For instance, the preference of a young child usually is given little, if any, weight, whereas an older teenager’s preference may carry significant weight.

There are various ways of getting a child’s preferences into evidence, and some of the more common approaches are to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent a child, to request the Court interview a child in chambers, or to request a child be interviewed by Court services.

If you are involved in a custody and/or parenting time dispute and would like more information on the process, please contact our firm to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney.

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