Moving is a part of life. Whether you are moving across the street or around the world, there is a lot of preparation, and often anxiety involved in the process. For parents with a judgment related to their child(ren), there is an extra step in the moving process, providing their ex with notice of their relocation. No matter how little or how much your ex is involved in your child’s life, if they have custody or visitation rights under a judgment, you have to provide them notice of your relocation.
Relocation in Missouri is governed by Revised Missouri Statute 452.377. The statute requires a parent give notice of proposed relocation at least 60 days in advance of the proposed relocation, and requires it be sent by certified mail. The purpose of sending this information by certified mail is twofold. First, certified mail provides a date your ex receives the mailing, which begins the 60 day clock. Second, certified mail provides evidence that the other parent received proper notice of your relocation. The statute lays out requirements that the notice must contain, namely:
(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; and
(5) A proposal for a revised schedule of custody or visitation with the child, if applicable.
The other parent can file an objection to your move within 30 days of receipt of the notice. If they don’t object within 30 days, you are free to move as planned. But what happens when a parent refuses to accept certified mail? Or when you don’t have their phone number, or their e-mail address, or any other means to contact him/her? While the statute doesn’t provide for it, another option is to have your ex personally served with the relocation notice. Personal service provides a better means of providing notice, and while more expensive than certified mail, achieves the goals of the relocation statute. Your attorney can help you find someone to serve your ex, and work to get him/her served. While Missouri courts have found that failure to give notice via certified mail is not determinative to the outcome of a relocation, it can hold up your relocation, can be considered in the modification of custody, and can lead to you paying the other parent’s expenses and attorney’s fees. An attorney can help you work through these issues and determine the best path forward to understanding your rights.