Once you decide to file for divorce, you probably want to see your ex as little as possible. Many people seeking a divorce may try to completely avoid their former spouse, but doing so really isn’t possible if you share children. After all, you will see each other when you exchange custody and possibly on important days for your children, like birthdays and graduations.

If the thought of seeing your ex frequently does not appeal to you, you might find yourself wondering if you really have to have joint custody or if you can just seek sole custody.

The Missouri courts presume that joint custody is best

Under the existing family law and best practices held by the Missouri family courts, the judge presiding over your divorce will begin the proceedings with a presumption that splitting custody is in the best interests of the children.

Judges often take a dim view of parents who put their desire to separate from their ex ahead of what will benefit the children. If you want sole custody, you will have to demonstrate to the courts that shared custody would actually be harmful to the children.

When do the courts agree that sole custody is best?

Given that the state has a practice of presuming that shared custody is in the best interests of the children, the only time they will deviate from that standard will be if you can clearly show that the involvement of your ex in the lives of your children could put them in physical or emotional danger.

You will typically need some kind of documentation to support claims that you make regarding your ex and their parenting. For example, claims of abuse will require substantiation via police reports, medical records, diary entries or even cellphone pictures of bruises and other injuries. Allegations of neglect due to substance abuse may require medical records or bar receipts to show how serious the issue is and how it affects your family.

Provided that you can show that your ex is not currently capable of safely fulfilling their parental obligations to your children, it is possible that the Missouri courts will grant you sole custody. However, if your ex makes changes in the future, they may be able to seek a modification and request shared custody if they can demonstrate these positive changes to the courts.