Divorce is a difficult process for anyone, but the prospect of losing your children in a custody battle can be downright terrifying. There has been a historical tendency for divorce courts to rule in favor of the mother in matters of child custody. There seems to have been an underlying presumption, within the court system, that women make better parents than men. More often than not, the mother receives primary custody of her children, while the father may only receive visitation rights every other week. Consequently, the limited time fathers get to spend with their children under this arrangement is often devastating for both parties.
Fortunately, in Missouri, the tides on turning on that front. The state recently passed a new law which—in recognition of the fact that equal parenting time is often in the best interest of the child—gives fathers more time with their kids in the event of a divorce. The law encourages judges to rule that children split their time between both parents, spending 50% of their time with each, if those circumstances appear to be in the child’s best interest.
Under the law—which has been dubbed the “shared parenting law”—the court assumes that equal custody between parents is in the best interest of the child, unless there is evidence to indicate otherwise. The court is explicitly prohibited from assuming that either party is better suited for parenting based on their gender. If the court does not rule in favor of a 50-50 split in child custody, it must enter written findings describing the rationale for its decision. Any parent who opposes the ruling has the right to appeal it.