During the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers in Missouri passed HB 1550 which will change shared custody agreements and encourage time-sharing among parents.
HB 1550 was touted as a “child-centered bill” and aims to prevent family law courts from applying cookie cutter custody arrangements in divorce cases. The new law forces Missouri family courts to consider relevant factors regarding time sharing and requires courts to enter written findings of fact and conclusions of the law. Courts will now have to take into consideration parental work schedules, location of child’s school, location of family residences, etc., when developing a shared parenting plan that will best fit the needs of the child. The new law will prohibit family courts from granting custody to parents based solely on their sex and the presumption that one parent may or may not be more qualified to act as the child’s full time custodian.
Data from the National Parents Organization has shown that children greatly benefit from shared parenting compared to single-parenting. Proponents believe that HB 1550 is the first step in guaranteeing that children will continue to thrive after their parents separate. The new law also aims to quell unnecessary custody battles, which can cause bitterness among divorcing parties, and instead focus on the equality of parents.
Opponents of the new legislation argue that co-parenting does not work for every family’s situation. They argue the new law will place limits on where parents may relocate, especially in divorce cases where there may be significant conflict between divorcing parties. The language of HB 1550 allows for courts to step in and determine custody arrangements if both parents cannot agree on a co-parenting plan.
HB 1550 passed the Senate unanimously and took effect August 28, 2016. Similar laws have also been passed in Utah, South Dakota, and Minnesota.
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Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.
Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.
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