Relocation is an issue that often comes up after two parties have become divorced or after a paternity judgment has been rendered as to custody. Many falsely believe that they can relocate at any time without notice to the other parent.
What is the law on relocation in Missouri?
If you get divorced in Missouri and you have children, or were part of a prior paternity case where a custody judgment was entered, you are required to provide notice to your former spouse to move. This is required by Missouri law according to 452.377 RSMo. This statute applies whether you are moving nearby within the same county or want to relocate outside the State of Missouri.
What type of notice do I have to provide?
The requirement is that you send a certified letter to your former spouse at least sixty days prior to the move. In Missouri, you must give a certified letter is necessary. A regular letter or make a phone call to your former spouse does not suffice. If you fail to follow this requirement, the court can make you return to your former residence if the other parent objects to your move. In other words, if you move with notice, you could lose custody of your children. Thus, it is very important that it be followed exactly.
What must be in the certified letter?
The certified letter must contain certain information to be valid. First, it must contain where you intend to move. This includes the address and telephone number if you know them. If you do not know them, you must provide the city and state, as well as the date you intend to move. It also must contain a brief statement of the reason you want to move your children. Finally, the letter must contain a proposal for a new schedule of custody or visitation with the children if one is necessary. Because the requirements for a relocation letter are stringent, any party thinking of sending a letter of proposed relocation must really ensure with legal counsel that the letter they are sending meets the requirements before sending such a letter.
What happens if the former spouse objects to the proposed move?
After you give notice, your former spouse has the opportunity to object to the relocation. Your former spouse must do so by filing a motion with the court to prevent relocation within thirty days after the notice of your proposed relocation is received. You then have fourteen days to file a response to the motion. If the former spouse files a motion, then the case has to be litigated and eventually a hearing would be scheduled to determine whether the move will be allowed. Based on what county the case exists, there is often different lengths of time in which a hearing can be obtained. In many instances, a proposed move can be held up for a long time before the court can hold a hearing.
At the hearing, the relocating parent must show that the proposed move is in good faith, is in the best interests of the children and that the other parent can still receive frequent and meaningful contact with the children. If the court permits the move after hearing, the court will order a schedule of visitation that is in the best interests of the children and that allows for frequent contact with the other parent and how exchanges are to occur and who bears the cost of the transportation. If the court does not approve the move, the party has to stay or else relinquish custody to the other parent if they still intend to move.
If are seeking to move, or you have been served relocation notice, you should seek the help of an attorney right away.
Disclaimer: The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance. An attorney and client relationship should not be implied. Nothing in this article is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, therefore if you require legal advice please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.