Recent Missouri family law decision discusses relocation of children

Uhaul.jpgMissouri child custody and visitation laws address what a parent must do in order to move residences with their child. Under RSMo Section 452.377, a parent who has custody or visitation of a child and wishes to relocate the residence of a child must give notice to any other party with custody or visitation rights, at least 60 days before the child can be relocated. The other party can move the court to prevent the relocation, in which case a hearing will be held. The parent seeking to relocate must show that the move is in the best interests of the child, and that they are not moving homes in an effort to disrupt or deprive visitation and custody with the other parent.

In Mantonya v. Mantonya, WD71368, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s decision that denied a mother a 15-mile relocation. The mother planned to move from Clinton, Missouri, to Ulrich, Missouri, 15 miles away. The mother gave proper notice to her ex-husband, and he moved to prevent the relocation. Mother wished to relocate the children 15 miles away so she could live with her soon to be husband. At the hearing, mother argued relocation was in the best interest of the children because it offered them a better, larger house to live in. Father argued it was not, because the school system was not as good. The court held that it was in the best interest of the children to deny the proposed relocation. Mother appealed.

The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District held that the mother had not met her burden with respect to whether the 15 mile relocation was in the best interest of the children. The mother argued only that her soon-to-be husband’s house, in which she planned to move into, was larger to accommodate their family. However, she did not offer evidence that the family was unable to move into a larger home in Clinton, Missouri, where the children could stay in their school district. Further, she did not offer evidence that the change of schools would be in the children’s best interest.

This case is a reminder that even 15 miles can mean a world of difference and can cause great disruption to a child’s life. Moves that can seem “no big deal” to a parent must still be found to be in the best interest of the child. Missouri courts place the burden on the moving parent to show that the move is in the best interest of the child, even in situations where only a few miles are at stake.