Modifying Child Support and Custody Agreements

Many clients ask about circumstances when child support and custody arrangements may be modified. Here are some common reasons when modifications may be warranted:

Child Support

In Missouri, child support may be increased or decreased if there is a substantial change in circumstances which makes the current child support amount unreasonable.

The burden of proof is on the party requesting the change.  There are several events that could happen after divorce that may meet this criteria:

  • Involuntary loss of income;
  • Voluntary reduction of income;
  • Increase in either party’s income;
  • A change in the visitation schedule

If it’s proven that one or a combination of those factors has resulted in a change of at least 20% of the original child support amount, the threshold to be considered “substantial” per Mo. Ann. Stat. § 452.370, the judge will grant a modification. Depending on whose circumstances changed and which party petitioned for the change, that could mean either an increase or reduction in child-support payments.

Custody Arrangements

Modification of custody and modification of visitation are different standards of proof.

Intermittent, agreed-upon changes, such as pickup times, special events, or travel plans do not require a court order.

Custody orders may be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances that make the custody terms unreasonable.

When circumstances have changed a modification of custody may be necessary to serve the best interests of the child. One party may request the court for a post-judgment modification to custody if the changed circumstance is substantial, continuing and makes the terms of the custody order unreasonable.

Examples of a change in circumstances and factors considered for modifying custody orders could include:

  • The custodial parent relocates;
  • The child’s educational or other needs change as they get older;
  • Changes in the child’s family structure or stability;
  • Health changes for the child or custodial parent;
  • Allegations of neglect or abuse.

When one parent files a motion to modify the existing custody order, the parent seeking changes to custody has the burden of proving the change in circumstances. Both parents may present evidence in court, showing whether or not the change would be in the best interest of the child. The parent who did not contest the custody order may defend against the modification and also assert that their parental rights would be violated by the modification.


Unlike custody, the burden of proof required to modify visitation does not require a change in circumstances. A modification of visitation only requires a showing that it is in the best interests of the child.

Examples of best interests of the child considered for modifying visitation orders could include:

  • Unwarranted and ongoing denial of the noncustodial parent’s parenting time; or
  • Meeting requirements such as treatment programs to allow for unsupervised visitation

Please keep in mind that changes to child support, custody orders and visitation are complex and take many factors into consideration.

With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions or to schedule a confidential consultation, contact our team.