Modification of Child Custody in Missouri title

A Complete Guide to Modification of Child Custody in Missouri

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Summer Masterson-Goethals
Masterson Law
(417) 522-1280
1771 S. Fremont
Springfield, MO 65804

Modification of Child Custody in Missouri

Missouri courts are focused on protecting children’s interests. Child custody arrangements for children might no longer work as they grow older. Parents may have to request a child custody modification.

When seeking child custody modifications, it’s essential to show that a change in circumstances has occurred and the “old” order doesn’t reflect the child’s interests.

Family & divorce lawyers in Missouri could be helpful if you’re contemplating divorce or dealing with child custody issues.

How Does a Modification of Child Custody Work?

Changing physical custody of a child requires evidence that a parent is unfit to care for their children. If they can’t agree to modify the parenting plan. The court may request the parent to present their case.

Consulting child custody lawyers can benefit your case. A judge can modify child custody orders even if one parent reaches an informal agreement with their former spouse.

Numerous reasons could lead to child custody modification.


Putting a Child in Danger

Missouri laws define an unfit parent as one whose conduct places a child in danger or causes psychological or emotional harm. Based on this definition, parents found guilty of felony offenses such as rape, child molestation, or sexual misconduct involving a child cannot have custody awarded by Missouri courts. The outcomes of custody cases are also negatively impacted by substance abuse and domestic violence.

Relocating a Child Without Permission

A parent moving a child without a relocation notice or court order could adversely affect the parent’s chances of retaining custody. This can lead to the court modifying the custody order.

Parent Mental and Physical Health

Custody changes are expected due to ordinary life changes as the child grows. However, parents’ mental and physical health could create a need to change child custody. If one parent is limited by their health to care for the child, the other parent could take custody of the child.

How Child Wishes Affect Custody Modification

A child’s wishes begin to weigh in custody cases from age 11. Their wishes become significant with age. However, the judge makes the final decision.

Petition for Modification of Child Custody

Filing a petition is the preliminary step to changing child custody.

What Do I Have to Disclose?

You must detail why you need to change child custody in the petition. If it is because of abuse, you will need to give details of the abuse. Sensitive information like address is not mandatory in the petition. Keeping your address private helps you keep the abusive partner or individual from knowing it.

How Do I Serve the Respondent?

You’re not required to serve the respondent. When the judge grants an ex parte order, the judge instructs the clerk to serve the respondent. If the respondent lives outside the state, the court initiates an out-of-state service. The petition is served where they live.

Family law support will assist you in preparing your testimony and deciding the relief you can seek for the hearing that might follow.

Does Child Support Affect Modification of Child Custody?

Parents sometimes abandon their children. Abandonment in Missouri is defined as failure to try to establish contact, communicate, or support a child for at least six months. Neglect limits a child’s meaningful relationship with the affected parent, which could warrant custody modification.

Child support includes health care and everyday needs such as clothing, transportation, and food. Changing circumstances may make the current child support terms unreasonable. Hence, changing circumstances may result in a modification of child support orders.

Emergency Modification of Child Custody

When to Seek Emergency Modification of Child Custody

Emergency change of child custody can be sought when there is an immediate threat to a child’s welfare. An abuse warrants an emergency protection order to keep a child from harm by the abuser.

The law in Missouri allows certain professions to report abuse when they identify it. These include healthcare professionals, social workers, teachers, and law enforcement. Others include court-appointed advocates and juvenile officers.

What Reliefs Can the Court Provide?

A court could give an ex parte protection order that’s 15 days maximum. A temporary order is given before the other party can respond to an allegation.

Full order of protection is only given after both parties have been heard and have had a chance to respond to allegations. A full protection order could last 6 to 12 months. It is subject to renewal on expiry.

Restrictions Against the Respondent

Various restrictions accompany a protection order. The respondent cannot:

  • Participate in or threaten to do anything that disturbs a child’s peace or compromises their wellbeing

  • Intrude on the child’s family home

  • Engage the child in any form or medium, including social media

  • Possess any firearm or ammunition

A visitation schedule is established, including denial of visitation rights for the non-custodial parent.

Filing for Modification of Child Custody

In Missouri, physical and legal child custody determines whose home a child lives in after a divorce and who is responsible for making decisions regarding the child’s welfare. Missouri courts prefer a joint custody arrangement (legal and physical) over a sole custody arrangement.

Modification of Child Custody Steps:

Petition For Order of Protection

Modifying child custody entails filling out a Petition for Order of Protection and filing it. An advocate could always help you fill out the petition.

You must detail the nature of violence and indicate the most recent violence. Make sure you describe your experience and how it made you feel about your safety and that of your child. You don’t need to give address details.

Filing the Petition

After filling out the Petition for Order of Protection, you will need to file it. Filing is done in the Circuit Clerk’s Office near you. Filing this petition is usually free and will not cost you anything. 

How Long Does it Take to Change Custody?

In situations of urgency, an Ex Parte Order can be granted the day after the petition has been filed. The judge will have a law enforcement officer serve the respondent with the ex parte order accompanied by a copy of the petition you filed. The order applies even outside the state.

Do I Need to Use the Courts to Modify Child Custody in Missouri?

Child custody modifications happen in court even if you and your former spouse agree on a parenting plan. Only a judge can make changes to a child custody order. The judge will decide so that a child has meaningful contact with the parents.

An attorney could help you know your parental rights, represent you in the local courts, and offer other legal services. Summer Masterson-Goethals is an accomplished family law & divorce attorney in Springfield. You can reach out to her to schedule an appointment.


How Much Does it Cost to Hire A Lawyer?

Masterson Law believes that you deserve adequate representation, your financial ability notwithstanding. Our clients can make an informed decision before choosing lawyers by discussing costs during the initial consultation. Visit our website for a comprehensive cost of divorce and related cases.


How Can A Lawyer Help?

family lawyer could help you prepare for custody evaluation for better outcomes in your case. Often, the court will side with the parent who provides the best environment for the child’s growth and development.

Masterson Law boasts qualified child custody lawyers who are experienced in family law. Our attorneys value the attorney-client relationship and work in the client’s best interests.


Why Masterson Law?

Masterson Law gives you a free initial consultation to go through what you should expect in your custody case.

Summer Masterson-Goethals is a renowned Springfield divorce attorney known for her attentiveness. Additionally, she is actively involved in all her cases and has built a reputation as a tenacious advocate in Springfield, MO. Masterson Law offers you family law support so you do not feel alone during the process.