Families make decisions to move for a myriad of reasons. Many parents choose to relocate in order to be closer to extended family, for a better career, or for a better quality of life. In recent years, because of the economy, many parents are unable to find work in the areas in which they currently live and must relocate to make a living and support their family. This seemingly common event of relocating can be more complicated when visitation or child custody orders are in place.
Missouri relocation laws apply to moving out of a state as well as moving within the state. In Missouri, if the relocation of the child’s permanent residence is going to be for a period of 90 days or more, a written letter must be sent through certified mail. This letter should be sent to any party with custody and any party with visitation rights. By state statute, this letter needs to include specific information regarding the move such as the parent’s new address, new telephone number, the date of the move, the reason for the move, and a proposal for a revised visitation and custody schedule.
Once the notice of relocation has been received by the other party, the parent that is not relocating has 30 days to file an objection with the court; otherwise the relocation may take place. If the two parties agree that relocation is going to be in the best interest of the children and the parents, they can create together a modified visitation and custody schedule and parenting plan. This new plan would then be submitted to the court.
If the parties are not in agreement about the relocation, then the matter may be taken to court. The party who does not agree with the relocation must file a motion with the court within 30 days of receiving the relocation letter. A hearing will be held that will allow the non-moving party to explain to the court why he or she does not agree with the relocation and will allow the moving party to explain why the relocation is in the child’s best interest. The moving party is also responsible for submitting a proposed revised parenting plan for the child to the court.
It is the responsibility of the moving party to prove the relocation is being made in good faith and in the best interest of the child.
In exceptional circumstances in which the adult or child would be placed at risk by disclosing any of the information required in this letter, the court may order any identifying information to be removed from the court documents. The court may also waive the requirement to send notice through certified mail in order to protect the health, safety, and best interest of the child and adult.
Because of the importance of what is at stake in a relocation hearing, it is important to have a competent family law attorney represent you and your interests in this legal proceeding.
Relocation is determined on a case by case basis. The court considers if the move is made in good faith and if it will serve the best interest of the child. The court is also concerned about how the relocation of the child will affect the child’s relationship with the non-moving party. In Missouri, it is well-recognized that children typically benefit from having frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents. If one parent’s decision to relocate will prevent a meaningful relationship with the non-moving parent, that will be taken into consideration by the court. Other considerations include whether the child would benefit socially, educationally, emotionally, and economically.
If the court permits the relocation, the court will order that the contact with the non-moving party be sufficient to ensure the child has frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with him/her. The courts will also specify in the order how the transportation costs will be allocated and may modify child support as necessary. When the child being relocated is young, it is often not feasible for the child to fly across the country unattended. Issues such as who will pay for the parent who is accompanying the child on the child’s flight need to be addressed in order to ensure that the relocation is as seamless as possible.
Typically each party is responsible for paying his/her own attorney’s fees unless the court orders differently. In relocation cases, if the non-moving party objects in good faith to the relocation, the non-moving party will not be ordered to pay the costs and attorney’s fees of the moving party.
The decision to relocate is a big one that may result in a challenging process that is best handled by an experienced family law attorney. Kathleen Shaul is a strong advocate for her clients in relocation proceedings. For help protecting your legal rights regarding relocation, call 314-499-1476 to contact The Law Offices of Kathleen E. Shaul to arrange for a consultation and evaluation of your case.