A common phrase that gets thrown around in Missouri custody cases is a “Siegenthaler” custody plan. Many clients want to know what that phrase means and whether it will be used in their case.
The “Siegenthaler” custody plan was developed from the case of Siegenthaler v. Siegenthaler, an appellate decision from the Eastern District of Missouri in 1988. The trial court decision awarded mother the bulk of physical custody and gave father visitation on the second and fourth weekends of every month and certain holidays every other year. The Father appealed, claiming that the schedule was too limited. The Appellate Court agreed, and determined its own schedule that added to the alternating weekends six weeks of custody during the summer and an alternating schedule of specific holidays, as well as winter and spring breaks. After this decision, many family court judges adopted this plan. The “Siegenthaler” plan has been generalized to refer to a custody schedule of visitation every other weekend and one night each week.
However, it is important to note that many judges have gone away from the Siegenthaler plan in recent years and are favoring more of a 50/50 custody schedule in situations that do not have any special circumstances. Every case is different and it is important to choose an attorney that is aware of what type of custody plan your judge prefers.