The 2022 Missouri General Assembly is currently in session. Senate Bill 857 contains several proposed changes in the family law area that may impact child custody, child support and transferring custody of a child. The law changes, if passed, will affect how lawyers will handle their client’s cases. The changes also have significant implications for cases involving third-party custody and minor guardianship cases.
One of the proposed child custody law changes involves third party custody. Third party custody refers to a situation where child custody is awarded to a person other than the parents. It is important to note that third party custody is different than a guardianship. In a child custody case where the court finds each parent to be unfit, unsuitable or unable to be a custodian of the child and finds that the best interest of the child is served by awarding another person custody of the child, this bill requires that the court provide certain notice to the child’s relatives within the third degree of consanguinity. This ensures that the relatives are aware that the child will be living with someone other than the parents. The bill also proposes that any person with whom the child has resided within in the last five years may intervene in the court case to seek third party custody, temporary custody or visitation.
The bill also proposes that no court order can be made denying a third-party contact with a child where that third party is not part of the court case unless the court finds that the third party may not be found and joined as party. This language would prevent a parent from obtaining a provision in a court order denying a grandparent, step-parent or any other person contact with a child without giving that person an opportunity to participate in the court proceeding.
Another proposed legislative change involved the relocation of a child. Under the current law, relocation encompasses situations where a parent of a child seeks to move from his or her current home to a new home. Sometimes the move may occur within the same school district. Other times, the move might be to a new city or even as far as a new state. The bill proposes to modify the definition of relocation of a child in a child custody arrangement to include the permanent transfer of custody of a child under a court order. This may include situations where a child is ordered to live with a grandparent, family member or any other person other than the parents. In cases where the transfer of custody is to a third party, the legal custodian will be required to notify the parents that a transfer of custody has occurred. The notice must be provided to the parents’ last known address. This means that the third party is not required to actually locate the parents. The notice to the parents must be in writing and must be sent at least sixty days in advance of the proposed transfer. The legislation does not require the notice to include the address where the child will be living. After August 28, 2022, every court order which modifies the custody of a child must include the addresses of the legal custodians and noncustodial parents of the child.
The Act also proposes that in any child custody proceeding, any person who fails to provide information regarding the address at which the child has lived for the last five years may be prosecuted. The Act provides that failure to disclose the child’s address is a class A misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor carries a range of punishment up to one year in jail and up to a $2,000.00 fine. The bill further states that any violation shall be reported to the local prosecutor’s office.
Under the current law, any person may file a petition seeking to be appointed as the guardian of a minor child. Senate Bill 857 will prohibit the guardianship if a custody order already exists for the minor child. Petitions for minor guardianship will require information about where the child has resided for the last five years. A person seeking to be appointed as the guardian of a minor child must disclose, in their petition, where the child has resided for the last five years. Each parent with whom the child has lived for the last five years must be given notice of the guardianship proceeding so that each person has the right to intervene and seek guardianship of the child. Any guardianship which was granted without providing notice to each such person may be set aside.
Senate Bill 857 also proposes a law change that will affect the abatement of child support if passed. The Act proposes that a child support shall abate, in whole or in part, if the other parent has permanently transferred custody of the child to a third party without first obtaining court approval. This will include situations where the parents agreed, between themselves and without having gone to court, that the child will live with the other parent, a grandparent, or any other person.
Scott Hamblin is an experienced Jefferson City family law attorney. Part of Scott’s commitment to excellence in representing his clients includes keeping up with proposed legislative changes. When dealing with a complex child support or child custody issue, having a dedicated attorney that fully understand Missouri law can make a world of difference. Contact Scott A. Hamblin today for assistance with your case.
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