Generally, the court will not consider a child custody modification unless a substantial change in circumstances directly impacts the child’s well-being. Common reasons for seeking a modification include changes in the parent’s job or residence, changes in the child’s needs, or a parent’s inability to fulfill their obligations under the original order. In some states, the court may consider a parent’s request for modification even if there has not been a significant change in circumstances.
Child Custody Modification in Missouri
In Missouri, the parent seeking the change must file a motion with the court and provide evidence to support their request. The Missouri Courts website outlines the process for filing a motion to modify child custody and support orders. In Missouri, custody and visitation issues are heard in the same circuit court that entered the parenting plan, even if a parent or child moves to a different circuit within the state. When a parent or child moves out of state or the parenting plan is ordered in another state, the laws about jurisdiction become very complex. It’s essential to consult with a skilled family law attorney if you are considering child support or custody modifications.
5 Common Reasons for a Child Custody Modification
To modify an existing child custody order, the parent seeking the modification must demonstrate that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order was issued. While each case is unique, typically, the court will modify a custody order for one or more of the following reasons:
1. A Significant Physical Relocation
If the custodial parent decides to relocate to a different city, state, or country, the non-custodial parent can request that the court modify the child custody order. The court may modify the agreement under the following circumstances:
- The relocation has a significant impact on the children’s lives.
- The relocation will make it challenging to maintain the current parenting plan.
2. Substantial Change in a Parent’s Circumstances
The court will consider any positive or negative change in the parent’s life. A significant change in a parent’s financial situation may warrant a child custody modification. If the custodial parent wants to remarry, the non-custodial parent can approach the court for custody modification. In all cases, the child’s best interests are the primary consideration.
3. A Change in the Child’s Needs
As children grow, their needs change. If placing the child in a different environment can contribute to their education, health, or overall well-being, there is a potential for custody modification. However, it is up to the parent seeking a change to prove that the new environment is better suited for the child’s educational or medical needs.
4. Child Endangerment
If you believe your child’s life is in danger, you can request that the judge modify the custody order. Endangerment is a compelling reason for custody modification, and the courts take this very seriously. Common endangerment factors include:
- If the child is being sexually, physically, or emotionally abused.
- If the parent’s substance abuse endangers the child’s safety.
- If the custodial parent is experiencing severe mental health issues which interfere with their ability to care for the child’s needs.
5. An Uncooperative Parent
If you are dealing with a parent who is not cooperating with the court-ordered child custody agreement, you can seek a modification. For example, if the custodial parent is not honoring your visitation rights, you should report those violations to the court with the assistance of a knowledgeable family law attorney. You will need to provide evidence to prove custody arrangement violations. The judge could hold the parent in contempt of court if the custody agreement is not honored.
Things You Should Understand Before Going to Court
While you can go to court to modify your custody agreement, there may be better options. Before going to court, you need to understand the following:
- Custody modifications are easy if both parents agree to the changes. However, things can quickly worsen when one or both parties are uncooperative.
- You may have to wait a year or longer after the last custody order modification to apply for a new one.
- The court can modify only court-ordered custody arrangements. The judge cannot enforce custody arrangements made between parents outside of court. If you agreed to a parenting plan and visitation schedule during your divorce mediation, the court might be unable to enforce or modify the arrangement if one of you changes your mind.
- You need to consult an experienced family law attorney specializing in child custody before making any decisions. Each case is unique, and your attorney can offer sound legal advice only after going through the specific details of your case.
An Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Help
The attorneys at Lecour Family Law can help you navigate complex and stressful family legal issues, including divorce, child custody modifications, and child support. Call us today at 636-685-0440 to schedule a consultation. We pride ourselves on offering family legal services tailored to your specific needs.
Lecour Family Law is located at 1270 Jungermann Road in St. Peters, Missouri. We serve clients throughout St. Charles, O’Fallon, Troy, Warrenton, and St. Louis.