In Missouri, under Section 452.377 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, a parent or guardian can request to relocate the principal residence of a child if the change will be for a period of ninety days or more. While this does not include a temporary absence from the principal residence, it is critical that if a parent or guardian is planning on relocating the minor child, the proper steps are taken.
The parent or guardian planning on relocating must provide a notice of proposed relocation to any party entitled to custody or visitation of the child. This notice must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested and absent exigent circumstances should be provided at least sixty days in advance of the proposed location.
There is also specific information that is required in the notice of proposed relocation.
This information includes:
(1) The intended new residence, including the specific address and mailing address, if known, and if not known, the city;
(2) The home telephone number of the new residence, if known;
(3) The date of the intended move or proposed relocation;
(4) A brief statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of a child, if applicable;
(5) A proposal for a revised schedule of custody or visitation with the child, if applicable; and
(6) The other party's right, if that party is a parent, to file a motion, pursuant to this section, seeking an order to prevent the relocation and an accompanying affidavit setting forth the specific good-faith factual basis for opposing the relocation within thirty days of receipt of the notice.
If the parties agree to a relocation and revised schedule, the parties must submit this agreement with the Court with an affidavit signed by all parties stating the parties are in agreement. The Court may then enter an order that makes the revised schedule set operative without a hearing.
But what if they do not agree?
The residence of the child may be relocated sixty days after providing notice unless a parent files a motion seeking an order to prevent the relocation within thirty days after receipt of such notice. This motion requires an affidavit explaining the specific, good faith factual basis supporting the objection to relocation. Typically then parties will then have a hearing before the Court to put on evidence supporting their position. The party seeking to relocate will have the burden of proving that the proposed relocation is made in good faith and is in the best interest of the child.
But what if they do not respond at all?
In Cortez v. Cortez, the Court states, “if a notice of proposed relocation complies with the requirements of Section 452.377, a failure by the parent receiving the notice to file an objection to the proposed move and the parent giving notice to file an objection within 30 days waives any objection to the proposed move and the parent giving notice has an absolute right to relocate the child. Cortez v. Cortez, 317 S.W.3d 630 (Mo. App. S.D. 2010). While Mo.Rev. 452.377.7 allows a party to relocate with the approval of the court if a parent does not seek to prevent relocation, Section 452.377 does not say that a proposed revised schedule of visitation automatically becomes effective upon relocation. The latest case that was just recently issued, in Smith v. Smith and Wilson-Smith, has updated the law/requirements that when there is no agreement between the parties, the proposed schedule in the notice of relocation is not effective without a court order. Smith v. Smith, No. WD86052, 2024 Mo. App. LEXIS 9 (App. W.D. Jan. 9, 2024). While the parent or guardian may relocate with the minor child, the relocating parent must get an order from the Court for the new schedule to become effective.
Based upon this new case law/holding, if you are relocating with your child, it is required that you file a modification, having the Court enter an order for the new relocation schedule that was proposed, even if the relocation notice was not answered/responded to. If you are a parent planning to relocate in Missouri, the best time to get legal assistance is when you need to write your relocation notice, to ensure that it strictly complies with Missouri statute. If you have completed your relocation notice and it went unanswered, it is crucial that you file a modification to have the new/revised relocation schedule ordered by the Court. If we can help you prepare for relocation or remain legally compliant with Missouri law related to relocation, please contact Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule a consultation!