Family law can be a complicated and emotional process for many. Representing yourself is not recommended in family law cases as emotional decisions are not the same as legal ones. Having an attorney that knows your rights, and can help you through these times by providing sound legal advice is essential.
Family Law in Missouri encompasses many areas, including:
- dissolution of marriage (divorce)
- legal separation
- child custody, support and modification
- guardianship and conservatorship
Dissolution of Marriage is the legal term in Missouri for divorce. By whatever name, divorce requires:
- a petition
- a child custody/parenting plan
- a statement of property and debts
- a statement of income and expenses
- a marital settlement agreement
- a child support calculation form
- a judgment decree of divorce
In Missouri, there is no need to prove that either spouse did something wrong in order to file for divorce. This is known as “No Fault”. The only thing that must be proven is that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no reasonable likelihood that it can be repaired. However, the behavior of the spouses can be a consideration when it comes to child custody, visitation, and support.
Ther time frame to receive a divorce can vary from as short as 45 days to as long as one spouse can essentially “drag it out” for, especially if there are disagreements. It is best to work out all issues between the spouses prior to the final court date, as if there are still unresolved conflicts, the judge can make the final decision for you.
You may file for a divorce, and your spouse may deny that the marriage is irretrievably broken. When then is likely to occur is a Legal Separation.
Legal Separation is a financial divorce. All of the steps are followed for a traditional Dissolution of Marriage except that no Divorce Decree is issued. Technically, you are still legally married to your spouse and cannot remarry, but your assets, finances and custody of your children are separate. You can live your life as a single person – but without the ability to remarry. A legal separation can be converted to a divorce within 90 days of the final judgement.
Child Custody and Support is decided during the course of a divorce or legal separation. In some cases, there may be reasons to modify those situations as the child grows and situations change. Either parent may file for a modification of either custody, support,or both. Grandparents may also seek a modification of custody to ensure that they get a fair amount of time with their grandchildren, especially if the custodial parent is not their child.
The provisions of any judgement respecting maintenance or support may be modified only upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable. Either parent can request a modification. Many factors are taken into consideration, such as: parenting time with the child, health of the child, health of the non-filing parent, the living situations, refusals to allow parenting time, and the child’s overall adjustment to changes in their home, school and area of residence. In some cases, the child’s wishes may be taken into consideration. The best interests of the child is always paramount.
Adpotion in Missouri can be a lengthy, detailed and expensive process. Having an attorney represent you guarantees that the rights of all parties involved are not damaged. The natural parent may have the right to change her mind during the time frame of the adoption and for a set period thereafter. The adopting parents are carefully scrutinized by the State, and it is essential that you follow the letter of the law to adopt a child. Always, the best interests of the child are the top priority.
Legal Guardianship and Conservatorship can be complicated processes and the guardian or conservator are appointed by the court. In short, a Guardian is appointed to make personal decisions for a ward (usually a minor), and a Conservator is appointed to make financial decisions for a protected person (usually an adult). In some cases, the court may appoint both a guardian and a conservator for the same person.
General definitions of what constitutes each role, and the types of each can be found in plain language on Wikipedia. A great resource can also be found here that outlines the terms, types filings and responsibilities of each role.
The Quitmeier Law Firm can help you with all types of family law situations. Please Contact Us for a free initial consultation to discuss your specific situation.