Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)

Fed Up Parent Risks Losing Custody and Child Support By Dumping The Child With the “Ex”

As a divorce lawyer, I have heard every kind of complaint imaginable about child support ranging from “I’m paying way too much!” to “that blankety-blank isn’t paying nearly enough!”. Today, I’m going to cover a circumstance where it is totally legitimate for the person paying the support to not pay it any longer. Here’s how…


You’re startled one evening by an insistent knocking at the door. Answering, you encounter your ex-wife and your eleven year-old son, both with suitcase in hand. You can see by the redness in his eyes that your boy has been crying, and by the expression on the face of your former spouse that she is exasperated. Without a word of greeting, she places one suitcase in your hall, while pushing your son forward with her hand.


“I’ve decided that he’s better off with you”, she announces. “I just can’t handle him anymore; it’s all too much. The two of you are always complaining that you aren’t with each other enough, so this should make you both very happy because I want him to live with you from now on.” With that, the boy’s mother begins to cry, turns, and walks quickly back toward her car, waving you away as you try to learn what the problem is this time.


Your former spouse has done this before, dumping your son in your lap unexpectedly in a fit of pique, but she’s always come back a few days later to pick him up. However, the two fully-packed suitcases suggest that this time might be different.


The mother has 30 days to change her mind before risking a permanent change in circumstances that would include losing custody of her child and forfeiting her entitlement to the child support she has been receiving. That’s because under Missouri law, on the 31st consecutive day that the child is voluntarily left by the custodial parent with the parent paying child support, that parent is no longer obligated to pay that support.


And, if this situation continues for an even longer period of time, the parent now in custody is well-advised to return to the Family Court to modify the existing court order so that the child is officially determined to be living with that parent most or all of the time, and to officially terminate that parent’s obligation to pay support to the other parent. However, the timing when this should be done is a little tricky to determine.


Under the law, for the court to modify a custody order, there needs to be a “substantial and continuing change in circumstances” and the parent seeking the change must also show that it would be “in the best interests of the child.” Giving the child time to settle in, bond with you and his surroundings, and form friendships throughout the neighborhood would all serve to solidify your case.


But, don’t wait too long before trying to modify the custody order. For one thing, you will need the court order to establish your home as your child’s permanent address for purposes of enrolling him/her in your community’s public school. And, until the custody arrangement has been changed officially, you and your child are vulnerable to the possibility that your ex-spouse will have a change of heart and suddenly demand that the official custody relationship be restored, and that the child be returned immediately.