Modification of a Child Custody Order in Missouri
Missouri courts have a strong interest in protecting the best interests of the child or children following divorce proceedings. As time goes by after these proceedings, child custody arrangements that once have worked for a young child might no longer work at some point. So, sometimes, parents have to request a child custody modification.
When seeking child custody modifications, it’s important to show that a change in circumstances has occurred since the original custody order has been granted and that the “old” order doesn’t reflect the child’s best interests anymore.
If you are considering a divorce, reaching out to experienced family & divorce lawyers in Missouri would be a good idea. Although child support and custody can be difficult and overwhelming, the child’s best interest should always remain at the center of this process.
Missouri Child Support Modification Laws
Some factors that could lead to the court deciding to modify child custody order include, for instance, parents’ mental and physical health, their moral fitness, unfit living circumstances, domestic violence, abuse against the child or children, as well as refusal to allow appropriate parenting time and meaningful contact.
Putting a Child in Danger
A parent who has been found guilty or pleaded guilty to some felony offenses such as rape, child molestation, or sexual misconduct involving a child will not have custody awarded by Missouri courts.
In addition, Missouri laws define an unfit parent as one whose conduct places a child in danger or causes psychological or emotional harm. So, these individuals, along with those who have a history of substance abuse or domestic violence, would usually be deemed unfit parents or guardians.
If a child is in danger and one parent is in a far better situation to provide a more stable environment for the child than the other parent, then the judge will be more inclined to allow a petition to modify child custody order.
Relocating a Child Without Permission
Relocating a child without the court’s order would also be a factor in child custody modification. For example, if a mother moves with the child away from the father in Missouri and doesn’t provide notice of relocation, the court can order the return of the child. That act can also jeopardize the mother’s custody or visitation rights.
Any violation of the initial custody order can result in the court agreeing to modification requests.
Child’s Wishes Regarding Child Custody Modification
A child’s adjustment to changes and their wishes should also be taken into consideration when petitioning to modify child custody arrangement.
At around 11, children can express their wishes regarding where they would want to live primarily. The older they are, the more weight their opinion has, although the judge will ultimately decide whether that would be in their best interest.
How Does a Modification of Child Custody Work?
One parent can’t just ask for a child custody modification because they want to spend more time or live with their children. That won’t be considered a legitimate reason for the modification. It is also difficult to change which parent has physical custody of the children because such change requires evidence that a parent is unfit to take proper care of them.
Changes in visitation usually don’t require court intervention and can be resolved between parents without a formal hearing. If they can’t agree, they can try working with a mediator and create a parenting plan that is acceptable to both parties.
If they still can’t agree about modifying the parenting plan, the court may request that the parent who wants to change the parenting plan presents their case. If you find yourself in this situation, consulting skilled child custody lawyers can be beneficial to your case.
On the other hand, only a judge can modify child custody orders. Even if one parent reaches an informal agreement with their former spouse, a judge’s decision is necessary for changing child custody orders.
When Can a MO Parent Seek to Modify a Custody Order?
Certain factors that could result in the judge being more inclined to allow and modify the custody order include the mental and physical health of the parents, instances of domestic or substance abuse, and an unfit living situation.
The court rarely interferes with child custody matters for an ordinary life change. However, if one parent refuses to allow appropriate parenting time and the creation of a meaningful relationship between the child and their former spouse, that may be enough for order modification. Although a change has to be significant for the court to interfere, they will always consider the child’s best interests and make sure the parent can provide a stable environment.
Motion to Modify Child Support Missouri
A motion to modify child custody is a form you can file with the court. The form also describes why you are requesting to modify a current custody agreement. Although custody modifications are expected as the child grows up, parenting plans and visitation schedules should also change accordingly.
When seeking custody modification, the party requesting it has to prove that the change in the circumstances has occurred and that the changes of the existing order are in the child’s best interest. However, if the other parent thinks the modification would violate their parental rights, they would also have to prove that. They can also hire an experienced lawyer to help them through the process.
How to Modify Child Support in Missouri
Like child custody, child support orders are also subject to modification since the circumstances can change.
Child support is the amount of money that the court has ordered one or both parents to pay every month to raise their children. In Missouri, that amount is determined by the judge, and it is based on the state guidelines and issues a child support order. The financial support includes health care, as well as everyday needs such as clothing, transportation, and food. But, if there is a substantial change or new circumstances that would make continuing terms unreasonable, a judge can order a child support order change.
These changes can include the financial situation changes of both parties, financial needs of children, remarriage of one of the spouses, and relocation.
Filing for Modification of Child Custody
The State of Missouri recognizes two types of child custody – physical and legal; each can be awarded to both parents jointly or solely.
Physical and legal child custody determine whose home a child lives in after a divorce and who is the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare. In addition, Missouri courts prefer a joint custody arrangement (legal and physical) over a sole custody arrangement. Judges believe that having both parents involved in their children’s lives is in their best interests.
As long as the children are in a safe and nurturing environment, the court will require that children maintain ongoing, frequent, and meaningful contact with both custodial parent and non-custodial parent.
One or both parents can file a motion to request child custody modifications and prove that the original order is no longer favorable to the best interests of the child. Bear in mind that some local courts may require parents to complete an education program that can teach them dispute resolution and cooperative parenting.
If the issue can’t be resolved through mediation, the court will hear the case. The judge may need to perform a custody evaluation when both parents have to show the court they can provide a nurturing and loving environment.
Although you may not need legal services from a family law attorney or a family law firm, don’t forget that going through a family law case can be a stressful experience. The most important thing is putting personal emotions aside and doing what is best for your children. But, that is something parents can’t always achieve. The family law attorneys at Masterson Law can guide you through the process and make sure the best interests of the child are always protected.
Child Support Modification Form Missouri
All of the necessary documents regarding child support and custody modification are publicly available through the website of the State of Missouri.
But, child support modifications and custody proceedings are much easier when you retain a competent family law attorney to help you navigate the process and safeguard your and the best interests of your children.
An experienced family law attorney, Summer Masterson-Goethals, is unique because, besides having 20 years of experience in divorce, she is also very familiar with other family law practice areas, including child custody, child support, and more. Contact us today for a consultation.