Family Law

Editor:
John W. Dennis, Jr., Esquire

In an action to prevent relocation filed more than thirty days after notice by certified mail, the deficiencies and inaccuracies in the notice preclude obligation of non-relocating party to file objection within thirty days. Allen v. Gatewood, No. 74799 (Mo. App. W.D., January 22, 2013), Hardwick, J.

Mother and Father had joint legal and physical custody pursuant to a judgment entered in 2009. The Mother sent Father a letter by certified mail in 2011, purporting to put him on notice of her intent to move to a new residence 27 miles away. The address provided and her stated reasons for the move were inaccurate.

The Father sought out the intended address to no avail. Then he found the correct address by coming upon the motor vehicle of Mother’s current spouse. The residence was much different than it had been described in the notice of intent to relocate.

The Mother went ahead and moved less than 60 days after providing notice and she enrolled their child in school without Father’s knowledge or permission.

The Father filed his objection to the relocation more than thirty days after receipt of the notice. The Mother’s motion for summary dismissal of the objection was denied. A trial ensued, and the Father’s motion to prevent relocation was granted. The Mother appealed.

Held: Affirmed.
“Mother cannot claim an absolute right to relocate child under § 452.377.7 without first demonstrating her strict compliance with the notice requirements of § 452.377.2. Abraham v. Abraham, 352 S.W. 3d 617, 221 (Mo. App. 2011).”

It is interesting to note that the court stated that even assuming that the Mother was unaware of the accurate address of the new residence at the time of notification, once she discovered the correct address, “she had a continuing obligation under § 452.377.3 to correct the information provided in her relocation notice.”

The Mother had the burden to prove that the intended move is made in good faith and is in the best interests of the child. The court noted that a review of the evidence indicated that the move would materially affect the child’s time with the Father. Moreover, the actions of the Mother were taken without involving the Father in the joint legal custody as to educational decisions.