Restrictions on visitation, and subsequent removal of them, both require a ruling on child’s best interest

Recent Case: When a custody order contains restricted visitation, those restrictions must not be lifted, or even phased out, until a subsequent hearing to determine whether removal of the restrictions is in the child's best interest.

Evidence that Father has not sought employment within his expertise supported an imputation of income for determining child support. The child’s best interests determine custody, including visitation. Modification of custody requires proof that circumstances have substantially changed since, or at least facts unknown to circuit court when, circuit court last ruled on custody. The former included evidence of deteriorating communication. The latter is more likely when the parties settle as to custody and included evidence of drug manufacturing. Those facts supported modification of custody, even though the State dismissed related criminal charges, and notwithstanding appellant’s testimony and arguments to the contrary. Such evidence also supported restrictions on visitation. Reduction in such restrictions scheduled in parenting plan, without any ruling that such reductions were in the child’s best interest when they occurred, constituted error and mother’s discretion to demand more drug tests was no substitute for the statutory standard. The case was remanded to the trial court to re-draft parenting plan, with discretion to hear fresh evidence if the circuit court chooses.

BR and OR v. LN

Missouri Court of Appeals-Western District

WD 79278