Normally, to change an existing child custody order in the state of Missouri, a substantial change in circumstances on the part of one or both parents that would significantly alter the nature of the parent-child relationship must be demonstrated. A few possible reasons a custody order might be modified include the arrest of a parent for a crime, allegations of drug use or abuse, or accusations of domestic violence against either parent.
Generally, the court which issued the original custody order and presided over the divorce or other legal proceedings also has jurisdiction over any modifications that may be requested. In certain circumstances, such as where a parent has relocated to Missouri from elsewhere, a Missouri court may be able to modify child custody orders without first going through the original court of jurisdiction. However, certain conditions must be satisfied in order for such modification to proceed.
Where either parent remains in the state and seeks to amend the court-ordered custody arrangements, the court of original jurisdiction would usually be the starting point. Factors such as domestic violence, the best interests of the children or the potential risk of harm to a parent or the children may increase the likelihood of a custody amendment being ratified by the court.
When a child custody order needs to be modified due to substantial changes in parental circumstances or for reasons of safety, an attorney may start by examining the previous relationship and conduct of the parents, including whether potential danger signs such as a history of domestic abuse exist. If a decision is made to proceed, the attorney can petition the court to grant the change and appear on the client’s behalf.