Custody: What’s Best for your Family?

In separation or divorce, children benefit when there is low conflict between their parents and when they can maintain a healthy relationship with each parent.

We can help you determine the best process for making decisions about physical custody (parenting schedule) and legal custody (decision making rights regarding the health, education and welfare) of your children, keeping their best interests in mind.

In the event that you are unable to resolve these issues through negotiation, mediation or the collaborative process, we can also present your custody case to the court.


  • Physical custody refers to where the child resides and which parent is responsible for caring for the child. Joint physical custody is when the child lives with each parent for significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time. Missouri law also allows for the inclusion of custody or visitation rights to be awarded to third parties, such as grandparents, in some circumstances.
  • Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about a child’s education, health care, religious instruction, and other major issues. Joint legal custody means that the parents share the right to make these important decisions. Even in cases where physical custody is awarded to one parent, joint legal custody may be awarded to the non-custodial parent.


A parenting plan is a written statement of the arrangements that the parents will follow in raising their children. Missouri law requires a written parenting plan in child custody cases.

A parenting plan should be drafted to consider the circumstances of both parents and the ages and developmental needs of the children. It includes a schedule that identifies the specific days and times the children are in the care of each parent. It includes details of how the children will spend holidays, vacations, and other special days. Responsibility for health care, educational and extracurricular expenses, and religious decisions are just some examples of what may be included in a parenting plan.

The parenting plan should also specify how the parents will share responsibility for decisions and how they will communicate with one another. It is generally helpful to put a parenting plan in place before or as soon as possible after separation.

The attorneys at Amato Family Law can help you develop a parenting plan that meets your family’s needs, provides stability, and addresses potential areas of confusion or conflict. A parenting plan may need to change over time as children get older and circumstances change.

We can also help you when modifications are needed.