Modifications

After the entry of the initial family court decree, Missouri courts retain jurisdiction over
the parties and subject matter pertaining to the original decree. In general the party
requesting that prior orders be modified must prove that a change in circumstances has
occurred in the area subject to the modification such that the prior order is no longer
just and appropriate for the family. Missouri courts may modify orders in the following
areas:

1. Child Support and Health Insurance
2. Maintenance
3. Child custody and visitation

Child Support and Health Insurance

Child Support and health insurance are always modifiable by Missouri courts even
though the parties may have agreed to prevent future modifications of those awards.
Child support may be increased, or decreased, and may be made retroactive to the date of
service on the other party. Additionally, the Court may change the terms of who covers
the children under a health benefit plan. In order to seek a modification in these areas
the party will need facts to support a change in the financial conditions of the parents, a
significant increase or decrease in the financial needs of the children, or the emancipation
of a child such that support is no longer necessary.

Maintenance

Maintenance may be modifiable by the court if the parties did not agree that an original
order awarding or denying maintenance was not subject to modification. Awards of
maintenance may be increased or decreased, and may be made retroactive to the date of
service on the other party. In order to seek a modification in maintenance the party will
need facts to support a change in the financial condition of the party paying maintenance,
or a change in the financial needs of the party receiving maintenance, or that the former
spouse has another wage earner in the household assisting with the payment of living
expenses. In most instances maintenance will terminate upon the remarriage or death of
the other former spouse, but a careful review of the prior family decree should be made to
determine if a modification is necessary and appropriate.

Child Custody and Visitation

Because Missouri Court’s never know with certainty what a parent’s situation may be
in the future, child custody and visitation are always subject to modification until the
child is emancipated from his/her parents. A parent may request a wholesale change in
the terms of custody, or simply an expansion or contraction of the custody and visitation
time with the child. In order to seek a modification in the terms of custody or visitation
the parent will not only need to prove a change in circumstances that rendered the prior
decree unjust; but also, that the requested change is in the best interest of the child. Some
changes that may prove to be significant for modification purposes include: an attempt to
relocate a child from his home, an attempt to change the child’s schools, criminal conduct
by a parent, drug and/or alcohol issues related to a parent, among others.