Due to a change in circumstances, you may find yourself wanting to modify your current parenting plan and child custody agreement. Whether your parenting plan is not age-appropriate anymore or you realize your co-parent is not a good influence on your child, you can file a motion to modify child custody. You can accomplish this informally or formally, which depends entirely on you and your co-parent’s ability to work together. When both parents agree on a modification, the process is much easier. However, in the event one parent contests the modification, you will have to go to court. Today, we will go over how to modify child custody in Missouri.
What Is a Motion to Modify Child Custody?
A motion to modify child custody is a form you can file with the court which describes why you are requesting to modify a current child custody agreement. These types of modifications are expected as a child grows up, starts attending school, and participating in extracurricular activities. Child custody and visitation schedules will need to be adjusted to account for these changes in the child’s schedule.
It is important to note that it can be difficult to change which parent has physical custody of the child. Such a change requires proof that the custodial parent is unfit to care for the child. Requesting a change just because you want to live with your child is not a legitimate reason to ask for a modification.
When Can You Request to Modify Child Custody?
Missouri courts will grant a child custody modification when the parents can show that doing so would be in line with the child’s best interests. You must show the following before requesting a modification:
- There has been a change in circumstances since the original order was placed.
- Under the new circumstances, the original order no longer reflects the best interests of the child.
Some examples of factors that could lead to a modification of child custody include the following:
- Mental and physical health of the parents.
- Instances of substance abuse or domestic abuse.
- Refusal to allow appropriate parenting time.
- Unfit living situation.
If one parent is in a better situation to take care of a special needs child or could provide a more stable environment for such a child, a change of custody could be requested as this would be in the child’s best interests.
How to Modify a Parenting Plan
If both parents agree to make a modification to their parenting plan, they can file their agreement for modification with the court. The court may grant this request without a formal hearing, depending on the nature of the change. It would be advisable to consult with a lawyer beforehand to ensure that your rights are protected.
If both parents disagree about modifying the parenting plan, the court will need the requesting parent to present their case. You should consult with a lawyer to ensure you are well prepared for a contested hearing. At any point, the parents can discuss the case themselves and settle their contested issues outside of court. Most cases will settle instead of going to trial, but this all depends on the circumstances of your case.
What Steps Do You Take to Modify Child Custody?
The steps to modify a child custody agreement when your co-parent contests the changes are as follows:
- File a motion to request a modification.
- Serve your co-parent a service of summons.
- Complete a parent education program (some local courts require this to modify a child custody agreement. The program teaches cooperative parenting, dispute resolution, and how to put the best interests of your child first).
- If possible, try to resolve the issues through mediation.
- Attend the pre-trial hearing and trial.
- Wait to hear the entry of judgement (the judge’s decision).
For help modifying your child custody agreement or parenting plan, contact our office online or call us at (314) 441-7793.