Making the Move: Child Relocation Considerations in Missouri

While the struggle to determine child custody in marital dissolution cases is often difficult, the question of whether to allow child relocation can be even more painful and delicate. Typically both parents have rights in child relocation disputes in Missouri regardless of who has physical custody. Courts also consider if relocation would be in the child's best interests. This article will discuss the steps a relocating parent should take in Missouri to reduce the issues that may occur with a move.

Pains of Relocation

It is not uncommon for a custodial parent to have to pick up and move to another city or state for work, for family or for love following a divorce. Relocation cases usually focus on how the move will impact the child and his or her relationship with each parent. Relocation often requires that both parents make accommodations to help the child adjust.

Some divorced couples will agree to relocation terms, but many noncustodial parents object to the child relocation requests of custodial parents. This necessitates court intervention to determine whether relocation is in good faith and if it is in the best interests of the child. Courts also verify the noncustodial parent was given proper notice of the removal before any move is completed to ensure that the rights of all parties are preserved.

Rights of Parents and Children

When deciding child relocation cases, courts are often balancing the constitutional rights of the custodial parents to travel against the rights of the noncustodial parents to be able to visit their children within a reasonable distance.

Missouri courts also consider the rights of the child, and whether removal is in his or her best interests. In cases where the relocation would provide added benefits to a child's lifestyle, courts may weigh these benefits against the detriments a child would experience if the relocation was denied. When there is evidence of prior violent behavior by the noncustodial parent against the former spouse or child, courts may also consider the advantages of allowing a removal that would give the child more safety and stability.

Legal Steps to Relocate

Custodial parents in Missouri who want to relocate with their children to another state must get the permission of the noncustodial parent or the court before moving. If a move is completed without permission, the relocating parent could face the loss of their custodial rights.

To prevent any harsh consequences, a custodial parent must send a certified letter to the noncustodial parent 60 days prior to the move date indicating the date and location of the move, reasons for the relocation and a proposal of new visitation terms, if different from the court-approved parenting plan.

Noncustodial parents who receive certified letters of relocation have only 30 days to file a formal objection with the court and stop the move. Once a noncustodial parent objects to a move, the move cannot be completed until a hearing is held. If the 30-day period following delivery of notice has passed without objection from the noncustodial parent, however, that parent has waived his or her rights to object to the move.

A noncustodial parent whose child is relocated without permission may be able to work with the courts to get an emergency pick-up order for the return of the child, but legal assistance may be needed to do so.

Making the Move

If you are a parent who is considering relocating a child, or who could have your child removed, contact a Missouri family law attorney right away. A family law lawyer with experience dealing with relocation issues can help you make the best decision about how to proceed with your case or objection. Hiring an attorney to deal with your child relocation dispute could be the most important move you ever make.