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Modifying a Child Custody Agreement in Missouri

Each state has different procedures for entering into and modifying family law agreements. If you live in the state of Missouri and need to modify a child custody agreement, there are a few things you must know. One of the most important things to know is that modifying a custody agreement may necessitate modifying a child support agreement as well. The two are usually interconnected – the noncustodial parent typically pays the custodial parent child support.


Not all modification motions are contested, but some are. If one parent wishes to modify a custody agreement but the other parent does not support the modification, then the case is considered contested. When this happens, the state of Missouri Family Courts strongly suggests utilizing representation from an experienced attorney.


When both parents agree to the terms of modification, they can file a joint agreement with a Missouri family court. These agreements are called “stipulations.” If the court finds nothing of concern about the stipulation, then they can usually grant the request without a formal hearing. Once a judgment is entered into, the modification becomes legally binding.


A “Motion to Modify” is an official pleading filed with the court to change a current child custody agreement, as long as it remains in the best interests of the child – all custody cases are decided on this principle. Custody modifications can take two forms:

  • Modifications to the parenting plan
  • Modifications to physical custody

Your modification will be held in the same court that handled the initial custody agreement. Typically, this is the case even if one party moves to another county in Missouri. In cases where one party has moved out of state, that state could have jurisdictions. These types of cases are considered “complex modifications” and require assistance from an experienced family lawyer.


Typically, the family courts in Missouri will only accept significant changes in circumstances as grounds for modifying a custody agreement. Below are examples of what the court would likely consider as adequate and inadequate reasons for filing a motion to modify:

Potentially Adequate Grounds for Filing

  • The parent with majority custody received a job offer in another state and needs to move.
  • A parent with custodial or visitation rights has since been accused of domestic violence and/or poses a threat to the child.

Inadequate Grounds for Filing:

  • The parent believes their child would rather live exclusively with them over the other parent.
  • Lack of satisfaction with the current parenting time (aka “visitation).

For most people seeking a modification of custody, the motion to modify is the first step. Assuming this is a contested case, the service of the summons would come next, followed by various education programs, mediation, discovery, pre-trial hearing, trial, and a final entry of judgment. Keep in mind that trial is not always necessary in these cases, but it is a possibility.

Whether you are seeking to modify a custody agreement in Missouri or you wish to contest one, we encourage you to contact The Buxner Law Firm today. These cases can become exceedingly complicated – let us help you through.

For a free consultation, call (314) 888-5235.