One of the most painful aspects of many divorces in Missouri has been the traditional assumptions that one parent, often the father, really does not need to spend much time with their children. A couple could granted joint custody and a father could still wind up being awarded a few hours on a weeknight and every other weekend.
Many fathers felt shortchanged and according to the research, many children were being shortchanged. This should be changing now, as shared parenting is now the law in Missouri, and judges will now be required to attempt to award time as close as possible to equal between the parents.
Importantly, the judges will be required to explain any deviation from this goal. This change is significant, as it provides something to appeal and grounds for a modification, should conditions that supported the decision change. There are likely to be “growing pains” as judges change what may have been years of practice, but many groups will be watching the results closely.
The goal of a parenting time arrangement should be always the best interests of the child. By maximizing the time spent with both parents in many cases, the court can ensure that the children will grow up receiving love and care from both parents, which is always beneficial.
For many parents, such an arrangement may be a challenge. Judges and parties will have to be flexible and work to create parenting plans that work for the specific circumstance of the couple. Some may have to alter their living or school arrangements, or their work schedules. But the reward will be seen in the faces of their children.