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 have a significant impact on the child custody arrangement.
If you are considering relocating, it is important to understand how Missouri law will treat the move. Missouri courts will always put the child’s best interests first when making a decision about relocation. This means that, even if you have primary physical custody of the child, the court may still restrict or prohibit your relocation if it would not be in the child’s best interests.
Missouri Relocation Statute: What Happens When a Relocating Parent Wants to Move?
In case one parent has to move to another city, out of state, or even out of the country, the State of Missouri has child relocation laws that determine a particular timeline of the events that parents have to 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 also have to 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 you 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 have to 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 was 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 have to provide notice of the intended move at least 60 days before the move.
This gives parents the chance to talk about 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 custody or visitation schedule.
If the non-relocating party and the relocating party 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 who have 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. In that motion, the non-relocating parent can outline why they object to the proposed move.
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 don’t agree 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 on this matter 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 in some states, custodial parents can freely relocate a child’s principal residence within a certain geographical allowance, in Missouri, that is not the case. 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 placed at risk by disclosing certain information regarding a proposed move. In that case, the court may order that information should not be disclosed in the documents, pleadings, notice, 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 as well as 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, she or he can’t just pack up and leave.
As we have explained, under Missouri Law, if one parent wants to relocate with a child, and she or he shares 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-days 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 to modify custody order and visitation rights, order the return of the child, as well as 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 the State of 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.
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.
A sensitive and skilled family law 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 difficult 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 specific concerns.