Jonathan Marks, STL Moms: Child custody concerns when relocating residences

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Margie Ellisor: What happens if you get divorced and one parent wants to move? Family law attorney Jonathan Marks with the Marks Law Firm is in this morning to break down the law when it comes to relocation and custody, good morning to you.

Jonathan Marks: Good morning, Margie.

ME: So according to Missouri law, what do they consider “relocation?”

JM: The strict definition would be is if the principal residence of the children was relocated for a period of 90 days or more, but in reality when someone’s looking at a relocation, whether they’re moving across the street or across the country, they should really pay attention as to what the requirements are, because as a parent of a child that has a parenting plan in place, they need to make sure that they follow those guidelines.

ME: Alright, and what are some of those requirements?

JM: So there’s five specific things you need to look at. First of all, when you send the relocation notice it needs to be sent by certified mail return/received/requested, by at least 60 days prior to a proposed relocation. The notice itself needs to state where you are moving to, it needs to provide a home phone number, or at least a phone number where the child can be called by the non-relocating parent, you need to give a reason as to why you are relocating, and you need to also state whether or not there is going to be a change in the proposed parenting plan that is currently in place.

ME: So, if they don’t meet those requirements they can’t relocate?

JM: Well, yes and no.

ME: Okay…

JM: It doesn’t really mean the parent is going to sit there and not relocate, people do this all the time. But in reality, it would provide the court with an opening to then order the child to be returned. What we would call a “deficient notice” can be fatal to somebody who wishes to relocate, and again, that’s whether it’s across the street or it’s across the country. Your inability to follow those statutory requirements can be fatal in your ability to relocate.

ME: Can the non-relocating parent object to the move?

JM: So once that original relocation notice is received, the non-relocating parent then has thirty days to file what’s called a motion in affidavit with the court. What that motion in affidavit is going to do is state all the reasons why they don’t believe it’s in the best interest of the child to relocate as the proposed relocation notice has suggested. Once that is then received by the relocating parent, that person has 14 days to then file a response with the court.

ME: What specifically is the court looking for?

JM: Well, it’s been a task that has been, you know, evolving over a number of years, but currently, basically what the court is going to look at is what is in the best interest of the child. As opposed to what’s in the best interest of the relocating parent. Let’s say somebody’s just getting remarried, or they just have a desire to do something in that regard that isn’t child-focused, that’s not going to cut the mustard, so to speak.

ME: Yeah.

JM: They really need to be focused on, you know, how this is going to benefit the child. So if it’s an employment related move that’s okay. If it’s going to be something that’s going to enhance the quality of life for the child and the home life, that’s going to be in the best interest and considered a proper relocation as well.

ME: Yeah. What can parents do to kind of minimize conflict if they’re discussing this relocation?

JM: Yeah. I mean, the most important thing to do is to try to discuss it well ahead of time. If you know your company is going to be relocating, or you know you’re going to have financial difficulties, or you’re getting married, or whatever the situation is going to be, it’s always best to try to have the discussion ahead of time so there is no surprise factor with it. That would allow the parents to really sit down and see if they can’t work out an amicable resolution that allows them both to have frequent and meaningful contact with their child, and avoid the conflict of going through the relocation situation in the court system.

ME: The biggest thing that you mention in your article about this, Jonathan, was that the motion be “in good faith.”

JM: Right. And so, courts are always going to look as to whether or not it’s, you know, a good faith move and you haven’t done this because you want to take time away from the other parent. A lot of times people are looking at these from a court perspective and stating, “the only reason you’re doing this is because you wanted to limit the time of the other parent of what they were awarded in the original parenting plan.

ME: Alright. Family law attorney Jonathan Marks, thank you. I appreciate your time this morning. For more information on the Marks Law Firm, head to the STL Moms tab.

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