Is relocation in the best interests of your child?

Family courts in Missouri make child custody decisions based on what is best for the child. In many cases, parents present these decisions to the court after working it out beforehand, and often, parents share child custody as evenly as possible. More studies support the idea that shared parenting is an important part of a child's ability to thrive as an adult. You and your spouse likely considered these factors when you arrived at your custody agreement.

However, situations change, and you may be facing the choice of whether to relocate with your children. You may feel it is your right to move anywhere you want to, but if you have a court-ordered custody arrangement, a judge has a say in it, too.

Factors a judge will consider

Your first obligation when considering a move is to notify your former spouse. Each state has statutes governing the amount of notification you must give. For example, Missouri requires 60 days. This waiting time allows your spouse time to consider the move and take appropriate action, whether that is to work with you on a revised custody schedule or to seek legal advice for protesting the move.

You should be aware that many courts require a lot of convincing before they agree to separate children from their parents. You will have to prove that the relocation will be in your child's best interests at the same time your spouse will try to prove the benefits of the child staying. Some factors that the court will consider include:

  • How far away is the move?
  • Will your former spouse be able to continue regular visitation?
  • Will a change of schools, separation from friends, removal from activities, etc. be harmful to the child?
  • Will your move provide opportunities for a better lifestyle for the child, not just for you?
  • Will you have a support system in your new location?
  • What does the child think about the move, provided the child is mature enough?

The family court will examine the circumstances and determine if the move will benefit the child and, more importantly, that it will not harm the relationship the child has with your former spouse.

To avoid the possibility that a judge may deny your petition to relocate, you may be tempted just to pack up and go. However, if the child's other parent contests your plans to relocate, you may find yourself in serious legal trouble, so following the procedures of family law and the advice of your attorney is always prudent.

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