FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-11-07
As children age and their school, extracurricular and other interests demand more of their time, child support orders may become out of date. In other cases, one parent may struggle to provide proper care of the children because of addiction or mental health issues. Sometimes it is possible for parents to seek modifications of their child custody orders to reflect the changed circumstances and the best interests of the child.
While it is possible to come to an informal agreement with a former spouse, filing a motion to modify a custody order ensures that the best interests of the child remain at the center of the decision-making process. A Missouri family law attorney can help ensure that adequate reasons exist to file for a custody change and proper evidence is submitted to support the request.
Change in Circumstances
Missouri courts grant child custody modifications when parents can prove the changes are in the child’s best interests, not merely the desire of either a parent or a child. First, to support a request to change child custody, the parent must show that circumstances have changed since the original order. Second, the parent must prove that under the new circumstances the original order no longer reflects the best interests of the child.
Some examples of factors that may necessitate a modification of child custody include health of the parents, living situations, refusals to allow appropriate parenting time and changes to the amount of parenting time required as the child ages.
For example, a change of custody may be warranted if a father with weekend visitation starts to notice a young child falling behind on development markers yet the mother does not seek medical attention. If the father is in a better position to get the child medical attention and provide a more stable environment for a child who may have autism or other special needs, a change of custody could be in the child’s best interests.
The state of Missouri requires the court to consider several factors when making custody decisions. All custody decisions must be in the child’s best interests and fulfill the child’s need for meaningful, continuing and frequent relationships with both parents. The custody decisions also reflect each parent’s willingness to parent and allow the child contact with the non-custodial parent and other relatives.
Additionally, custody changes must take into account a child’s adjustment to changes to their home, school and community and the intent of one parent to relocate the child’s principal home. They should also consider the mental and physical health of both parents and children, including new cases of abuse or neglect. Lastly, the child’s wishes may also be taken into account.
How to Modify Child Custody in Missouri
In Missouri, there are two ways to modify child custody orders depending on the types of changes the parents would like to make. For parents who have an amiable relationship, it may be easiest to make minor adjustments in custody, like changing the time, place or day that the non-custodial parent sees his or her children, in an informal agreement. Once the agreement is made, the parents can submit it to the court for approval without having to go through a formal hearing.
However, many divorced parents will not be able to reach such an agreement. In these cases, it is usually necessary to file a motion to modify child custody with Missouri’s family courts. A parent who has concerns regarding the current child custody arrangement should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can better explain the requirements of a custody modification.