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Family/Child Custody Relocation of Residence

After a divorce or custody determination, whenever a parent “relocates” he/she must follow certain statutory procedures notifying the other parent of the move. “Relocate” means a change in the principal residence of a child for a period of 90+ days — but is not a temporary absence from the principal residence. Thus, you can “relocate” even if you move across the street; it does not necessarily a move across the state or out of state. Failure to give the proper relocation notice can in extreme circumstances result in contempt of court or a basis on which the underlying child custody order can be modified.

The party seeking to relocate has the burden of showing that the proposed relocation is made in good faith and in the best interests of the child. A relocation analysis, therefore, requires that when the principal residence is changed for a period of 90+ days, the court must determine whether the (1) relocation is made in good faith and (2) is in the best interest of the children.

“Good faith” is the relocating parent’s motive or purpose for relocating being something other than to disrupt or deprive the non-relocating parent of relationship with the children. Swisher v. Swisher,1 24 S.W.3d 477, 481 (Mo. Ct. App. 2003). Accordingly, presuming the reason for the move is something legitimate and not designed to disrupt the other parent’s custody, then the good faith requirement should be met easily. More complicated is the second requirement. The best interests of the  child is a much broader analysis that may require consideration of many things, including: the child’s wishes, the child’s adjustment to a particular school/community, the health of all individuals involved, whether the move would allow frequent and meaningful contact between both parents and the child, etc.