Relocation of a child subject to a Missouri custody order

Missouri law governs the relocation of children after a custody order has been entered. "Relocation" is defined as "a change in the principal residence of a child for a period of ninety days or more, but does not include a temporary absence from the principal residence." A parent who intends to relocate must give written notice of the proposed relocation to the other parent by certified mail, return receipt requested, at least 60 days prior to the proposed relocation, which includes the following:

(1) The intended new residence, including the specific address and mailing address, if known, and if not known, the city;

(2) The home telephone number of the new residence, if known;

(3) The date of the intended move or proposed relocation;

(4) A brief statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of a child, if applicable; and

(5) A proposal for a revised schedule of custody or visitation with the child, if applicable.

Once the notification is received, the non-relocating parent has thirty days to file a motion to prevent relocation. The non-relocating parent waives any objection to the relocation by failing to object in a timely manner, giving the relocating parent an absolute right to relocate with the child, without the permission of the non-relocating parent or the court. In such a case, the child may be relocated sixty days after the non-relocating parent received the relocation notice. However, strict compliance with the relocation statute is required, including compliance with the certified mail provisions and providing a specific address.

When a parent does not have an absolute right to relocate, the parent may still relocate with the child by order of the circuit court. In such cases, the party seeking to relocate is required to prove that the proposed relocation is made in good faith and in the best interests of the child. In determining whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child, the Court will look to the statutory factors that govern any Missouri custody decision.

For a recent Court of Appeals ruling dealing with the issues of strict compliance, specific address requirement, and relocation based on best interest of the child, click here.