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Children in Divorce


The four key terms to know regarding your children in the divorce process are: 1) parenting plan, 2) legal custody, 3) physical custody, and 4) child support


Parenting Plan is the legal document that governs the conduct of the mother and father with respect to the kids. It will specify the legal and physical custody arrangement and all manners of details regarding the children. Think of it as a contract for the benefit of the kids. Other points you will see in the parenting plan are: a) the specific time periods the kids will spend with each parent, b) where the kids spend any holidays, c) sharing of expenses for the kids for activities, d) who claims the kids on their taxes


Legal Custody refers to decision-making for the children.

  • SOLE LEGAL CUSTODY: One parent is given the right to make all decisions for the kids, like what doctors they see, or whether or not they will play baseball.

  • JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY: The parents must talk and arrive at decisions together for the kids. This is the true nature of co-parenting. This is the "typical" designation.



Physical Custody refers to where the children will be spending their time.

  • SOLE PHYSICAL CUSTODY: The children live with one parent and rarely, or never, spend time with the other parent. Usually this arrangement happens when there has been abuse, or when a parent is incarcerated, or cannot spend time with a child for some reason.

  • JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY: The child spends time with each parent. This does not necessarily mean equal time (in fact, it rarely does), just that the child spends time with mom and dad.


Child Support is a sum of money paid by one parent to the other to help with the costs of raising a child. It is based upon a number of factors including: a) the income of the parents, b) number of children, c) costs of health insurance, d) costs of daycare, and e) how much time each parent spends with the kids. 



Children First!

In Missouri, when a divorce involves children, it is required for each parent to take a course called Children First to learn about co-parenting after divorce.


This is a valuable program designed to give parents a tool  to work with their former spouse to successfully parent after divorce. 


Here is a list of the providers for the program:


Family Court

1111 Boonville, Suite 5

Springfield, MO 831-1505



1736 E Sunshine, Suite 309

Plaza Towers

Springfield, MO



Children First

1300 Bradford Parkway

Burrell Center

Springfield, MO




1550 E. Battlefield, Suite A

Galleria Shopping Center

Springfield, MO 869-9011

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