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Different types of Missouri child custody

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2023 | Divorce And Family Law

According to information from the Missouri court system, there were 25,864 child custody cases in Missouri in 2020. Dealing with child custody issues is often emotional and stressful for a parent. The situation is also confusing when you don’t understand the specifics of child custody.

Physical or Legal

Some parents get confused about the difference between legal and physical custody. That’s mainly because a parent can have legal custody without having physical custody, and vice versa.

Physical child custody refers to where the child lives most of the time. In this case, the parent without physical custody usually has visitation rights to spend time with the child. But legal child custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding the child’s well-being.

If a parent has legal custody, but not physical custody, that parent still has the right to make decisions on issues such as healthcare, activities, religion and education. It doesn’t matter that the child doesn’t live full-time with the parent who has legal custody. There’s also the matter of whether or not a parent has shared custody or full custody.


Shared custody – also referred to as joint custody – is when both parents have legal or physical custody of the child. The parents share the responsibilities of raising the child and making decisions that affect the child.


Full custody – also called sole custody – is when one parent has physical and legal custody of the child. The other parent might have no rights or limited rights regarding the child.

Parents can simplify matters by deciding on a custody arrangement without involving the courts. However, if the parents cannot reach an agreement, court involvement is necessary.