Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The
Honorable Sandra Midkiff, Judge
Karen King Mitchell, Chief Judge Presiding, Mark D. Pfeiffer,
and Thomas N. Chapman, Judges
N. CHAPMAN, JUDGE
Johnson appeals from the judgment of the circuit court,
challenging the circuit court's modification of custody
and child support. For the reasons explained herein, we
reverse the circuit court's judgment modifying child
custody and child support.
Johnson (Mother) and Zjohn Riley (Father) have one son
together, E.J.R. (born June 22, 2006). In April of 2008, an
administrative order was entered requiring Father to pay
child support to Mother in the amount of $2.00 per month
(Father was incarcerated at the time).
April of 2015, Mother filed a Petition to Determine
Paternity, Custody, and Child Support. On March 30, 2017, the
circuit court entered an "Order and Judgment of Default
for Petition for Determination of Father Child Relationship,
Child Custody, and Modification of Child Support"
(Original Judgment). In its judgment, the circuit court
determined that a substantial and continuing change of
circumstances had occurred since the entry of the original
child support order, and ordered Father to pay support in the
amount of $307.00 per month.Mother was awarded sole legal and
physical custody of E.J.R., and Father was allowed to make
arrangements for supervised visitation.
August of 2017, Father filed his Motion to Modify (the
instant action), requesting that the parties be granted joint
legal and physical custody of their minor child. In December
of 2017, Father filed a Request for Service by Publication;
and notice was published for four consecutive weeks,
beginning on January 5, 2018. Mother did not file an Answer
to Father's Motion to Modify and did not appear at trial.
trial, on March 16, 2018, Father submitted a proposed
parenting plan and a Form 14 into evidence, and testified
that he wanted to be able to see E.J.R. and wished to share
joint legal and physical custody with Mother. In its
judgment, the circuit court ordered that the parties would
share joint legal and physical custody of E.J.R., that
Mother's residence would be E.J.R.'s residence for
mailing and educational purposes, and that Father would have
unsupervised parenting time. The circuit court modified
Father's child support downward to the presumed level of
$188.00 per month. Father's child support payments were
in arrears at the time of trial, and the circuit court
ordered him to pay an additional $25.00 per month (for a
total of $213.00 per month) until he satisfied the full
amount of the arrearage ($700.78).
raises three points on appeal. In her first point, Mother
argues that the circuit court erred in granting Father joint
legal and physical custody "in that [Father] did not
provide evidence that there were substantial and continuing
changes in circumstances warranting a change in
custody." Mother argues in her second point that the
circuit court erred in modifying the child support order set
forth in the Original Judgment because there was insufficient
evidence of a substantial and continuing change in
circumstances that would render the prior award unreasonable.
In her third point, Mother argues that Father's notice of
service by publication was defective and that the circuit
court therefore did not acquire personal jurisdiction over
it presents a threshold issue, we begin by addressing
Mother's third point on appeal. "[A] circuit
court's determination of personal jurisdiction is a legal
conclusion … subject to a de novo review on
appeal." Peoples Bank v. Frazee, 318 S.W.3d
121, 127 (Mo. banc 2010) (internal citation omitted).
argues that the notice of service by publication in this
matter was defective because (1) it did not adequately
describe the nature of the action commenced by Father, and
(2) it did not provide Father's attorney's name.
See Rule 54.13(c)(3). Absent a showing to the contrary,
this Court must presume that the circuit court had
jurisdiction over both the subject matter of the present
action and the parties. Ray v. Ray, 50 S.W.2d 142,
144 (Mo. 1932) ("The presumption in favor of the
jurisdiction of a court of ...