Missouri Divorce Law on the Custodial Parent Moving Out of State
By Beverly Bird
Missouri is one of the stricter states regarding parental relocation and its courts tend to favor the rights of the non-custodial parent. Gaining court permission to move your children out of state might be an uphill battle if the other parent doesn't give consent, but it's not impossible.
Many states' laws set a certain geographical distance beyond which the custodial parent cannot move her children without the non-custodial parent's agreement or the approval of the court. The distance is usually a number of miles -- such as 60 or 100 -- or across state lines. In Missouri, a custodial parent cannot move her children to the house next door without permission or the consent of the other parent. The law prohibits any relocation at all without official notification to the non-custodial parent.
Your notice to your child's other parent must be formal. It's not enough to telephone your ex or send an email telling him that you're going to move. Under Missouri law, your notice must be in written form and sent by certified mail, return receipt requested. You must explain where you're going, why you want to leave and how the move will affect your children. Your notice should include a plan for revising the visitation terms of the custody portion of your divorce decree, especially if your move is out of state and will make regular visitation difficult or impossible. Notice is required a full 60 days before you intend to move and if you fail to give it, the court can order you to bring your children home again.
Missouri law gives the non-custodial parent 30 days to object to the move after receiving notice. If the parent does nothing within this time, the court will generally permit the custodial parent to move. If the non-custodial parent does object, it usually necessitates a trial so a judge can decide the matter. In Missouri, the burden of proof is on the custodial parent. She must demonstrate to the court how the move will improve the children's lives, despite the fact that it will limit frequent contact with their other parent. She must prove that she's not moving out of state in an attempt to disrupt or eliminate the relationship between her children and their other parent, and she must show the court how she'll continue to make the children available for contact, despite the distance between them. Missouri's family law code has no hard-and-fast rules for judges to follow when making these decisions, so they'll grant permission for the move -- or deny it -- on a case-by-case basis.
Joint Custody Factors
Missouri recognizes joint custody arrangements so, in some cases, neither spouse is the non-custodial parent. When parents share an equal amount of time with their children and one parent wants to relocate out of state and take the children with her, this necessitates changing the custody terms of the divorce decree. The judge will decide at trial which parent should have sole physical custody, since an out-of-state move would make joint physical custody impossible.
- The Marks Law Firm: Custodial Parent Relocation
- American Bar Association: Relocation of the Custodial Parent -- A State-by-State Survey (PDF)
- Missouri Divorce and Family Law Blog: Parent Relocation -- Finding That Children Could Not Relocate Reversed
- Swall, Carmody & Hutchings: Relocation -- Moving Away With a Child
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.