Temporary Assistance/Case Management Manual – Table of Contents

0205.050.10.10 Divorce/Joint Custody

IM-#154 November 21, 2002

Review the custody agreement in the court order/divorce decree.  Base any decision of deprived of parental support on lack of day-to-day involvement between parent and child.  The divorce, by itself, does not make the child deprived of parental support.  It is the continued absence from the home with little or no financial contribution by a parent that makes the child deprived of parental support.

In determining continued absence, carefully review whether the absence either interrupts or terminates the parent providing maintenance, physical care, or guidance for the child.  Base the decision as to which parent (if only one primary caretaker exists) is the actual caretaker.

If both parents are exercising responsibility for the child, providing day-to-day care, and truly sharing maintenance, physical care, and guidance for the child, the child is not deprived of parental support unless financial need exists.  Example of joint custody:  the child lives with each parent for set periods of time, such as two weeks with one parent and then two weeks with the other parent.

Section 452.375 RSMo defines custody as follows:  Joint legal custody means that the parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child, and, unless allocated, apportioned, or decreed, the parents shall confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority.

Joint physical custody means an order awarding each of the parents significant periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each parent.  Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

If financial need exists then only one parent may receive Temporary Assistance for the child(ren).  Who makes the application is not a determination made by Income Maintenance.

If the child continuously lives with one parent, visits the other parent on weekends and in the summer, and the parents do not share maintenance, physical care, and guidance for the child, the child is deprived of parental support.  The parent designated as the primary caretaker is eligible to receive Temporary Assistance for the child year round, even while the child visits the other parent.  Only one parent can receive Temporary Assistance for the child.

It is essential to determine if a primary caretaker exists or if the parents are equally sharing custodial responsibilities.  Contact both parents to discuss actual arrangements if shared maintenance, physical care, and guidance for the child is indicated.

If the applicant/participant has  the divorce decree, obtain a copy if possible.  Review it for information regarding custody of children, alimony or provision for child support.  Try to obtain the divorce decree whether the children are with one of the parents or with an eligible relative other than a parent.  Send a copy of the divorce decree to DCSE.

If the individual does not have a copy of a decree and the divorce was obtained locally, the decree should be available in the Office of the Circuit Clerk.  If the divorce was obtained elsewhere, obtain the information by inter-agency correspondence.  Keep in mind a parent is legally obligated to support his/her minor children regardless of whether desertion, separation, or divorce exists and regardless of whether or not the divorce decree provides for child support.