How Does Temporary Custody Work in MO?

By Beverly Bird

There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to child custody and Missouri’s statutes are no exception. Custody decisions usually come down to the opinion of a single judge. The concept of temporary custody is further complicated in Missouri because it means different things in different situations.

Custody Pending Divorce

Temporary custody sometimes refers to the parenting plan in place while your divorce litigation is in progress. Some spouses don’t need to establish a formal arrangement during this time because their separation is amicable. However, in high-conflict divorces, either parent might want a concise, court-ordered parenting plan as soon as possible. Missouri does not require that you wait until your divorce is final to achieve this. You can ask the court for an order detailing custody terms immediately. These temporary orders usually remain in effect until the court issues a final divorce decree. A permanent parenting plan is included in the decree’s terms.

Establishing Temporary Custody

Seeking a temporary custody order in Missouri is a relatively straightforward process. After you’ve filed for divorce, you can file a motion with the court. You’ll have a court date within weeks rather than waiting several months for your final divorce hearing. You can usually get motion packets from the court clerk. They include the actual notice of motion, which tells your spouse and the court that you’re requesting a temporary order, and a written explanation, called an affidavit or declaration, detailing your requested custody terms. When you file for divorce in Missouri, you’re required to submit a proposed parenting plan at the same time detailing the custody arrangement you’d like the court to order when your divorce is final. You can reiterate these terms in your affidavit. At the hearing, the judge will decide temporary custody based on the same factors he will use to determine a more permanent parenting plan -- what he considers to be in the best interests of your children.

Implications of Temporary Custody

Technically, judges are not supposed to consider the terms of temporary custody orders when they decide permanent custody orders. However, in reality, temporary custody often leads to permanent custody. The parent who remains in the marital home often receives temporary custody because courts won’t make children leave their homes absent some compelling reason, such as abuse. When children do well in the temporary arrangement, courts usually don’t see any reason to change that when they issue a permanent order. However, if you’re uncomfortable with the temporary order, you can contest it at your final divorce hearing. You can also attempt to negotiate more favorable terms with your spouse because Missouri requires divorcing parents to attend two hours of mediation to try to work out a permanent parenting plan.

Permanent Parenting Plans

The term temporary custody also refers to visitation time in Missouri. If you’re the non-custodial parent, you’ve got temporary custody during the times when your children reside with you. This is "temporary" in an immediate sense because your children will return to their other parent within a day or two. When parents can’t agree on their own parenting plan, Missouri courts will often order visitation or temporary custody one weeknight each week, plus every other weekend.