Navigating Missouri Child Custody Relocation

What Does Relocation Mean in the Context of Child Custody?

In Missouri, relocation typically refers to a change in the child’s primary residence for more than 90 days. A temporary absence (less than 90 days), such as for summer vacation, does not count as relocation. If the relocation occurs, it may significantly impact the child custody arrangement.

If you are considering relocating, it is essential to understand how Missouri law will treat the move. Missouri courts will always prioritize the child’s best interests when relocating. This means that even if you have primary physical custody of the child, the court may still restrict or prohibit your relocation if it is not in the child’s best interests.

Missouri Relocation Statute: What Happens When a Relocating Parent Wants to Move?

If one parent has to move to another city, out of state, or even out of the country, the State of Missouri has child relocation provisions that determine a particular timeline of the events that parents must follow before they begin their move. In addition, these laws also outline strict notice requirements.

When deciding about cases that consider the relocation of a child, Missouri courts have to balance the rights of a relocating parent to travel against the rights of the non-relocating parent regarding custody and visitation. Courts must also consider the child’s rights and whether the proposed relocation is in the child’s best interests.

According to the Missouri child custody laws, courts, among other factors, have to consider the “mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse” when determining custody or visitation arrangements.

Suppose there is evidence of violent behavior of the non-custodial parent against the minor child or former spouse. In that case, Missouri courts may also consider the stability and safety the proposed move would bring.

Missouri Child Custody Laws: What if Other Parent Objects?

In Missouri, you can’t relocate your child anywhere, not even next door, if you don’t have the court’s permission. This applies whether you are the sole custodial parent with visitation granted to the other parent or share joint custody. If a parent moves a child without permission, they risk the loss of their custodial rights.

If you are a relocating parent, and the non-relocating parent disagrees with the move, you must prove to the court that you are acting in good faith and not trying to ruin the other parent’s relationship with the child.

When the relocation offers benefits that would improve the child’s life, the Missouri court may compare these benefits with the downsides a child would experience if the move were denied.

Missouri child custody laws and family law battles, in general, can be complicated and exhausting. Usually, both parents have their version of what is in the child’s best interests.

Child Custody Relocation Rules and Considerations

A relocating or a moving parent must notify the other parent about the relocation.

According to the Missouri relocation statute, the written notice of a proposed relocation has to be sent as a certified letter or return receipt requested. They must provide proper notice of the intended move at least 60 days before. This allows parents to discuss the move and whether it is the best solution. Moving without this notification can affect the parent’s ability to relocate.

The written notice of intent to move has to include specific information, such as the specific address and mailing address, if known, the home telephone number of the new residence, and the date of the intended move. Also, the notice must include a proposal for a revised parenting plan and a revised visitation or custody schedule.

If the non-relocating and relocating parties agree to a child relocation, proposed revisions, and a visitation schedule, they can submit their agreement to the court. If the agreement is signed by all parties with child custody and visitation rights, the court may approve the proposed revisions of the parenting plan without a hearing.

If the party seeking to relocate doesn’t provide notice of the proposed relocation, the non-relocating parent can ask the court to prevent the relocation.

The non-custodial or the non-moving parent can also object to the proposed relocation if they file a motion with the court. The non-relocating parent can outline why they object to the proposed move in that motion.

After that, under Missouri law, “the person seeking relocation shall file a response to the motion within fourteen days unless extended by the court for a good cause, and include a counter-affidavit setting forth the facts in support of the relocation as well as a proposed revised parenting plan for the child.”

If the non-relocating parent fails to file such a motion within 30 days, their objection will most likely be waived, and the move will be permitted when the 60-day period expires, even without a court order.

If parents disagree that the move would be in the best interests of the child or children and a party objecting files a formal Objection to Relocation, a judge will have to give the final decision by permitting the move or prohibiting it.

However, if the non-moving parent has received the notice and doesn’t object to the move, the parents must submit the terms of their agreement to the court. These terms also have to include a revised schedule of visitation and custody arrangements.

How to Win a Relocation Custody Case in Missouri

The State of Missouri has strict relocation laws. Although custodial parents can freely relocate a child’s principal residence within a specific geographical allowance in some states, that is not the case in Missouri. The best way to win a relocation custody case is to follow the statutory requirements strictly.

However, suppose the court finds that the safety or health of the child or any adult would be at risk by disclosing certain information regarding a proposed move. In that case, the court may order that information not be disclosed in the documents, pleadings, notices, or the final order. In addition, notice requirements may be waived to protect the child’s health or safety. 

If relocation is permitted, the court would want to ensure the child has telephone access and meaningful, continuing, and frequent contact with the non-custodial parent “unless the child’s best interest warrants otherwise.”

Can a Custodial Parent Relocate?

Yes, a custodial parent can relocate, but not without permission. In other words, if that parent intends to move, they can’t just pack up and leave.

As we have explained, under Missouri Law, if one parent wants to relocate with a child and share child custody with the other parent, the relocating parent has to notify the other parent.

The notice has to contain information about the intended new residence, such as a mailing address and a telephone number. A brief statement explaining the reasons for the proposed move should also be included.

The party seeking relocation should send all this information, including the proposed revision of the visitation and custody arrangements, to the other parent by certified mail and request a return receipt.

The law requires sending a notice via certified mail because it provides a date when the non-relocating parent receives the mail. That is important because of the 60-day deadline, the other parent has to object to the move.

Suppose the party seeking to relocate fails to provide adequate notice to the other parent. In that case, the court may consider modifying the custody order and visitation rights, order the return of the child, and order the relocating parent to pay reasonable expenses and attorneys’ fees incurred by the other parent.

Can a Custodial Parent Move a Child Out of State?

In Missouri, the custodial parent who wants to move with their child to another state must obtain permission from the court or the non-relocating or non-custodial parent before the move.

Moving with your child without permission can result in severe repercussions and may lead to losing custody or visitation rights.

How Do I Win a Relocation Custody Case in Missouri?

Winning a relocation custody case in Missouri requires following the legal requirements carefully and presenting substantial evidence to support your case. Here are some tips on how to increase your chances of winning a relocation custody case in Missouri:

  1. Provide Adequate Notice: As discussed earlier, providing the non-relocating parent with proper notice of the proposed move is crucial. This includes information about the intended new residence, a brief statement explaining the reasons for the move, and a proposed revision of visitation and custody arrangements.
  2. Keep Good Records: Maintaining accurate records of your communication with the other parent can be essential in a relocation case. This includes keeping copies of letters, emails, texts, or any other communication related to the proposed move and the child’s well-being.
  3. Get Professional Help: Relocation custody cases can be complex and emotionally challenging, especially if the other parent objects to the move. Seeking professional help from a family law attorney can significantly increase your chances of winning the case. An experienced attorney can guide you through the legal process and present a strong case on your behalf.

What You Need to Know About Child Relocation Laws in Missouri

When one parent wishes to move to another part of the city or state with their child, specific requirements have to be fulfilled so the move would go smoothly.

An experienced child custody attorney can help you make the best decisions for your family. We are well-versed in custody issues and child relocation laws and can help you navigate this legal process.

The Carson Law Firm understands that relocation is a complex issue, no matter which side of the case you are on. We can help you with your relocation case. We have the knowledge and resources you need to ensure that your child support and custody issues are addressed to maximize the benefit to you and your child.

Contact us today to establish an attorney-client relationship and schedule an initial consultation to discuss your concerns.

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