Kansas City Attorney for Modification of Decrees

Changes to Missouri Divorce, Child Custody and Support Orders

After the entry of a decree of dissolution of marriage (divorce), a custody order, or child support order, from time to time the need may arise for certain terms of those orders to be formally modified by the court. One party can ask the court to change the order, or the parties can enter into an agreement to modify.

In Missouri, child custody orders, child support orders, and spousal support (unless designated "nonmodifiable") can always be modified if certain requirements are met. Any agreement involving custody, visitation, or support must be found to be in the best interests of the child. Other terms, such as property divisions, debt divisions, attorney fee awards, and awards of no spousal support, are final and cannot be modified.

Below is general information regarding modification proceedings in Missouri. Modification cases are often the most complicated types of family cases, and careful consideration and planning should be done before filing any modification case in Missouri. We encourage you to contact Kansas City family law attorney Mark A. Wortman if you are considering seeking modification of a court decree.

Child Custody Modifications

Missouri child custody orders are always modifiable, even if the order states that it is not modifiable. A child custody modification is an action seeking to change the primary residence of the child. In order to modify a child custody order, 4 requirements must be met:

  • The court must have UCCJEA jurisdiction
  • There must be a continuing and substantial change in circumstances to warrant a modification
  • The changes that have occurred must make the prior order unreasonable
  • It must be in the best interest of the child that a modification occurs

If the above requirements are satisfied, then Missouri courts will look at several additional factors to determine whether the modification should be granted. No single factor listed below is necessarily sufficient to modify a custody order, unless that factor affects the best interest of the child. Those factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The best interest and welfare of the child is the dominant factor
  • Preference of the child (assuming the child is of sufficient age)
  • Moral fitness of the parents
  • Remarriage of a parent
  • Deprivation of noncustodial parent's visitation rights
  • Alienation of child's affections or respect
  • Failure to comply with relocation requirements

Modifications of Visitation

Parenting time, or visitation, is always modifiable in Missouri. This type of action seeks to only change the schedule that the non-custodial parent has with the child, or other parenting plan issues that do not involve a switch of primary residence. The burden of proof for this type of action is that the modification must be in the best interests of the child. A change in circumstances does not have to be shown as in a child custody modification.

Modifications of Child Support

Missouri child support orders, both judicial and administrative, are always modifiable. To modify child support there must be a showing of a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the original order unreasonable. Those changes can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The recalculation of child support pursuant to Form 14 will result in a 20% or greater change in support amount
  • Changes in financial condition of the parties
  • Financial needs of the parties
  • Financial needs of the children
  • Emancipation of children
  • Remarriage of a former spouse
  • Death
  • Relocation

Modifications of Spousal Support (Maintenance, Alimony)

In some circumstances, spousal support can be modified upon a showing of substantial and continuing changed circumstances. Missouri courts have broad discretion in this area, and the following may constitute changes in circumstances:

  • Changes in the financial condition of either party
  • Financial needs of either party
  • Death
  • Remarriage
  • Failure of a former spouse to become or attempt to become self supporting

It is important to note that if the spousal support order has been labeled as "non-modifiable," then it cannot be modified, but it can be terminated upon death or remarriage of the receiving spouse. Also, a party who waived spousal support in the initial divorce decree cannot later try to seek maintenance with a modification action.

Property Division, Retirement Account Division, Debt Division, and Attorney Fee Orders

Missouri court orders for the division of property, including retirement accounts, division of debts, and attorney fee awards are final and cannot be modified.

Consult with an Experienced Lawyer on Changes to Divorce, Child Custody and Support Orders

To speak with an attorney about modifying orders in your family law case, contact experienced Kansas City family law attorney Mark A. Wortman.