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Can a court consider a parent's age or income in a custody case?

It's not uncommon for there to be a large disparity in income or age between two parents who are involved in a custody dispute. One parent may be much older or younger than the other or a parent could make significantly less money. Parents sometimes wonder whether their age or income could play a factor in a court's custody decision. According to Missouri law, a court is not allowed to consider a parent's age or financial status when making a custody decision. The court also cannot consider the parent's gender or the age or gender of the child.

The court must make its decision based on the best interests of the child. There are a number of things the court reviews to make that determination. The first item is the wishes of the parents and any parenting plans that each side has submitted. If the two sides can come to an agreement on a parenting plan and present that plan to the court, the process is likely to be much easier.

However, if the two sides can't reach a child custody agreement, the court will weigh each parent's plan proposal. The court will also review each parent's willingness to perform his or her responsibilities as well as the child's relationships with the parents and other siblings in each household. The physical and mental well-being of all individuals in each household is also important. If anyone living in either household has a history of domestic violence, that could be an important consideration for the court. Finally, the court will also factor in the child's custody preference, if he or she is capable of expressing one.

When two parents fail to come to agreement on a parenting plan, they are leaving their fate in the hands of the court. It's very possible that the court could consider all of these factors and come up with a custody plan that satisfies neither parent. That is why it is important for parents to work together in a civil and professional manner if possible to reach an agreement.

Source: Missouri Revised Statutes, "Chapter 452 Dissolution of Marriage, Divorce, Alimony and Separate Maintenance Section 452.375 ", November 03, 2014

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