Relocation approved, custody changed from joint custody to sole custody

Recent case: Relocation must be in good faith and in children’s best interests; sole custody award appropriate when parents cannot jointly make decisions.

In a recent case from the Missouri Supreme Court, a mother sought to modify a judgment dissolving her marriage that had granted the parents joint legal and joint physical custody of their two children. The father appeals the circuit court’s judgment (1) approving the mother’s relocation to a different town and (2) modifying custody of the children from joint legal custody in favor of both parents to sole legal custody in favor of the mother.

Decision Affirmed.

Evidence supported the circuit court’s approval of the mother’s relocation as being in good faith. Evidence included that the mother lost her teaching job and found a new teaching job that would require her to move about 56 miles away, that she had identified a good school for the children in the new area, and that the children were familiar with that area and would have a support network there as the mother’s family lived nearby. Evidence also supported the circuit court’s finding that relocation was in the children’s best interests. In particular, relocation would allow the children to distance themselves from the parents’ toxic relationship.

Substantial evidence also supported a change from joint to sole legal custody in the mother based on the evidence that the parents’ relationship was so contentious that they could not function effectively, communicate, or make joint decisions regarding the children, and that the father’s negative conduct had a deleterious impact on the children.

PLP, Appellant vs. DMP, Respondent.

Missouri Supreme Court - SC94488