Physical Custody: Where Will the Kids Live After Divorce?

Physical custody refers to where and with whom the children will reside after the divorce. Legal custody determines who is responsible for making major decisions for the child. Both decisions are guided by what will be in the best interest of the child. Physical custody may be shared, awarded to one parent, or given to a third-party in some cases. 

Neither parent may move with the children outside the state of Missouri after a divorce action (or paternity action, modification, etc.) has been filed. If either parent has physical custody and intends to move, whether out of the state or just down the street, they must by law provide 60 days prior written notice per the State of Missouri. Both parents must also consent to any change in the child’s residence. 

Joint Physical Custody

The child will spend significant time with each parent. Joint physical custody helps to fulfill the child’s need for a frequent, continuing, meaningful relationship with both parents. This does not necessarily mean equal time with each parent, however. One parent’s residence will be designated as the child’s official address for purposes of school attendance.  Missouri law has an explicit stated preference for the parents to share joint physical custody.

Sole Physical Custody

If a judge determines that joint physical custody is not in the child’s best interest, they can award sole physical custody to one parent. The basis for sole physical custody varies greatly. It could include factors such as one parent’s distance from the child’s school and/or the particulars of that household and living situation. 

Third-party Custody 

Here, the court names someone other than a parent of the child as a legal or physical custodian if it has been determined that it’s not in the best interest of the child to live with either parent. 

A judge will make the final decision. Although the wishes of the child may be considered in awarding physical custody, in Missouri there is no specific law governing an age when a child may choose where to live. Many of the same factors that determine legal custody will be used to help determine physical custody arrangements.

With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions or to schedule a confidential consultation, contact us today.