Can Parents Relocate After Entry of a Child Custody Order in a Divorce or other Proceeding?

What happens if there is a court ordered parenting plan as a result of a divorce, paternity case, or other proceeding, and one of the parents wishes to relocate to another city or state? Well, Missouri law places a burden on the parent to notify the other parent, in writing, meeting specific requirements, before the relocation. Essentially, the parents must be able to agree on a new parenting plan, and if they cannot, they have an opportunity to have the Court decide whether the parent can relocate. The following are the requirements of Missouri's statutory restriction on relocation:

Absent exigent circumstances as determined by a court with jurisdiction, a parent with physical custody of a child will notify, in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, and at least sixty days before the proposed relocation, each party to this action of any proposed relocation of the principal residence of the child, including the following information:

  • The intended new residence, including the specific address and mailing address, if known, and if not known, the city
  • The home telephone number of the new residence, if known
  • The date of the intended move or proposed relocation
  • A brief statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of the child
  • A proposal for a revised schedule of custody or visitation with the child

The parent’s obligation to provide this information to each party continues as long as that parent is entitled to custody of a child under a court order. The parent’s failure to abide by this provision regarding the proposed relocation may result in further litigation to enforce the requirement, including contempt of court for violating a parenting plan that has been incorporated into the court’s judgment. In addition, the parent’s failure to notify a party of the relocation of the child may be considered in a proceeding to modify custody or visitation with the child. Reasonable costs and attorney fees may be assessed against the parent for failing to give the required notice.

Once a parent intending to relocate has given the proper notice to the other parent, the parent receiving the notice has thirty days from the date the notice was received to file a motion and affidavit in court setting forth the factual basis supporting that parent’s objection to the relocation. The parent requesting the relocation will then file a response within fourteen days, unless extended by the court, and this response will include a counter-affidavit setting for the facts in support of the relocation as well as a proposed revised parenting plan for the child.

The parent seeking to relocate will have the burden of proving that the proposed relocation is made in good faith and is in the best interests of the child.