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Reasons for Modification of Custody in Missouri
The Missouri legal system has a strong interest in protecting the happiness and welfare of children after divorce or separation proceedings. This is why, in most child custody cases, both parents are highly encouraged to participate in child-rearing. It’s also why visitation time isn’t dependent on child support payments.
Sometimes child custody orders may become outdated, irrelevant, or unreasonable. In certain cases, the parents may need to request a modification of the child custody order that was previously granted by the court.
This modification aims to reflect changes in circumstances and the child’s best interests.
At Shea Kohl Law, LC we help make sure that you have adequate reason to file a motion, and enough evidence to support your request.
Requirements for Child Custody Modification
A child custody modification refers to an action that seeks to change a child’s primary residence. Before a custody order can be modified in Missouri, these 4 requirements should be met:
- The court has Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) jurisdiction.
- There is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that warrants the modification.
- Such changes make the previous custody order unreasonable.
- A modification in the order is in the child’s best interests.
Reasons to File a Modification of Custody
One of the primary requirements before a custody modification can be granted is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. This change in circumstances may not have been fully considered by the parents at the time the order was granted.
Missouri courts take into account the following factors in determining whether a child custody modification is warranted:
- The parent’s health
- The parent’s “moral fitness”
- Current living situations
- Changes in the amount of parenting needed because of the child’s age
- Changes in the child’s health or educational needs as they grow older
- One of the parents decides to remarry or relocate
- Allegations of abuse or neglect
- The child’s wishes about his or her primary custodian
Filing A Motion to Modify
Either or both parents can file a motion to request a modification. The petitioner needs to include documentation or provide proof that the original order is no longer favorable to the child’s best interests.
The court will then hear the case. The judge may require a custody evaluation to be conducted. During this evaluation, each parent will be expected to present their case and demonstrate that they can provide the child with a loving and nurturing environment.
Missouri courts emphasize the role of both parents in creating a safe and healthy environment for the child. A request for custody modification usually won’t be granted if one of the parents will be permanently excluded from having meaningful contact or maintaining a relationship with their child.
Modification of Custody vs Modification of Visitation
The standards of proof in these two actions are different. Most changes in visitation—including special occasions, travel plans, and pick up times—don’t require court intervention. The easiest way to make these changes is through a direct discussion between the spouses. If an agreement can’t be reached, they can also try working with a mediator to create a parenting plan that’s satisfactory for both parties.
On the other hand, only a judge can grant a custody modification, even if the parents come to an agreement outside of court. In an action for custody modification, the parent who seeks to make the changes has the burden of proof, which means they must prove that the alleged change in circumstance necessitates changes in the existing custody order.
The other parent (or the respondent) may also assert and prove that the modification violates their parental rights.
Consult with a Missouri Family Law Attorney
As children get older, their needs and interests change. A parent may suddenly find it challenging to provide proper care for their child because of certain changes in their life. Although it’s possible to have an informal agreement with your former spouse, filing an action for custody modification ensures that your child’s best interests are protected.
To learn more about modifying a custody order, call (636) 946-9999 to speak with one of our experienced Missouri family law attorneys.
Call Shea Kohl Law, LC at (636) 946-9999
or contact us online to schedule your initial consultation.
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Shea Kohl Law, LC serves clients in Missouri including St. Charles, Troy and Lincoln and throughout Warren and St. Louis counties. We also serve clients in Illinois.