My kids live in St. Louis with their mom, who has full child custody, and I’d like to move there from North Carolina where I own a business to be closer to my kids. I will have very little money to start a new life there though.
Thank you for your inquiry. Let me preface this by saying that I am not licensed to practice law in Missouri and can therefore give you no specifics as to how the Missouri Courts will answer your question. Cordell & Cordell does have offices in St. Louis and I would urge you to contact one of the attorneys in that office for more assistance. My analysis of your question will use North Carolina law, which is the state I practice in. I preface my answer with this statement because in your question you omit which state has jurisdiction. That is important because wherever the court order was entered, that state’s law applies.
I am going to assume that the court entered an order in Missouri allowing the mother full custody of your children. Therefore, you would have to follow Missouri law in order to fight for custody, reduce your child support, and/or reduce your alimony. Once again I am only licensed to practice in North Carolina and therefore am only able to give you some idea of how North Carolina would look at this problem. The first step is to determine if the move to St. Louis will benefit your case or if it will be detrimental. In order to do that you must look at what the court looks at in terms of child custody, reduction of child support, and/or reduction of alimony.
In North Carolina, in terms of child custody the court looks at the best interest of the child standard. Your moving closer to the children would, in North Carolina, be in the best interest of the children and could possibly help your claim to gain more visitation with them.
In terms of a modification of child support, North Carolina requires a change in circumstances. Such changes deemed sufficient are: involuntary decrease in a parent’s ability to pay, or decreased needs of the child. In your move, the North Carolina courts would have to determine if your move to be closer to the children is a disregard of your parental obligations. Once again, Missouri may have different laws on this subject and I would speak to a Cordell attorney in the St. Louis office.
In terms of modification of alimony, North Carolina requires a substantial change of circumstances. There are a number of factors that the court may consider but the person asking for the reduction must show that the amount from the previous award is no longer appropriate.
All and all, it is difficult to predict if your move, at least to the North Carolina eye, would be deemed voluntary or involuntary and if the move would be enough to reduce alimony. North Carolina courts could consider the fact that you got money from your business in determining that you still have the ability to pay the original amounts. At this time, I would save your money so that if the courts determine that you have to continue to pay the original amount; you have some money in savings to use towards those amounts until you find a job in Missouri.
I would speak to one of our St. Louis attorneys on the issue. If it is determined that Missouri has jurisdiction, then they would be able to help you plan your next move.
Andrea Miller is a Staff Attorney in the Charlotte, N.C., office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C., where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Miller is licensed in the state of North Carolina. Ms. Miller received her undergraduate degree in History and her Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While in law school, she on the Client Counseling Team for Moot Court and became a board member. Ms. Miller also participated in UNC’s Legal Assistance Clinic whereby she helped represent indigent clients obtain legal counsel primarily in the area of domestic relations.