What happens when you or your ex-spouse want to relocate with your children? This is a common issue that family law practitioners are faced with on a regular basis. It is also one of the most heavily litigated areas of family law in Missouri.
When a parent decides to move the children and that move detrimentally impacts the ability of the other parent to continue a meaningful relationship with the children, the long term effects on both the children and the parents can be significant. In order to more adequately address the Missouri family court’s ability to monitor these types of relocations, the Missouri legislature amended Missouri Statute Section 452.377 in 1998.
The statute provides that every party entitled to custody of a child shall provide the following written notice to any other party who has custody rights at least Sixty (60) days prior to any proposed relocation:
(1) The specific address of the intended new residence, if known, or the city if not known;
(2) The home telephone number of the new residence if known;
(3) The date of the intended move or relocation;
(4) A brief statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of the child; and
(5) A proposal for a revised schedule of custody or visitation with the child.
This information along with other language in statute is now mandated to be placed in every court order establishing or modifying custody or visitation in Missouri and has been since August of 1998.
Failure to send the mandated notice can be grounds for an order that the child be returned and a factor for a modification of the existing custody order.
A parent who is opposed to the relocation should file a Motion To Prevent Relocation in the circuit court where the original order is filed. This needs to be filed within thirty (30) days of the receipt of the notice previously described. Once the Motion To Prevent Relocation is properly filed the child may not be moved without prior authorization of your family court judge.
There are some very limited exceptions to this notice requirement in this statue. These exceptions primarily involve circumstances involving a risk to either the parent or child who desires to relocate. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine if your circumstances meet these exceptions.
The party that wants to move will need to prove that the proposed move is made in good faith and is in the best interest of the child. Missouri case law gives the trial court broad discretion in determining if the party desiring to move has met her burden. However, as a general rule, a proposed relocation will be subject to a denial if there is evidence that the move is motivated by a desire to interfere with the custody rights of a parent who has a well-established, involved and meaningful relationship with his or her child. Check back with this blog for a future discussion of what specific factors your Judge is likely to consider in making her decision on what custody arrangement is in the best interest of your child. If you are currently faced with the potential relocation of your child it is important that you discuss your circumstances with an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with the particular views of the trial judge who is likely to hear your case.