Columbia Divorce Law Blog

Equal time or a well-constructed parenting plan?

Child custody is almost always a difficult topic in a Missouri family court. After all, what is the "best interests" of the child? Each parent may have an idea, but given the environment of a divorce, they may not coincide. And the judge has only the information provided by the parties to base his or her opinion.

While studies suggest that shared parenting can benefit a child in some cases, it is difficult to extrapolate that it will work well in all cases. There has been a movement to require that all child custody be presumptively 50/50, and North Dakota voters just rejected such a ballot initiative.

For parents who desire a shared child custody role post divorce, a good way to demonstrate the viability of such an agreement is to create a parenting plan. In Missouri, as many states, hard and fast custody rules have been changed to require parents to develop a parenting plan.

Do you need a prenuptial agreement?

If you were Harold Hamm, you may believe that to have been a good idea. The CEO of an oil company that has grown substantially with the development of the Bakken Shale oil fields, has reached a property settlement with his former spouse, Sue Ann Hamm.

While not a record for divorce property division, the $995.4 million payout is one of the largest. One positive in the settlement is that he need to pay it in a lump sum. Instead, he must pay $322.7 before the end of the year and then $7 million a month, for about eight years. 

What is "substantial change" for a child support obligation?

According to the Missouri legislature, the necessary change in circumstance must be "so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable." But, as they save on TV, wait, there's more. In order to determine if the change is substantial and continuing, a court must look a several factors.

First, the statute requires the consideration of the all the financial resources of the parents. This includes the reasonable expenses of another party, either a spouse or a cohabitant. The court also must consider the earning capacity of a party who is unemployed. This is to prevent someone from temporarily avoiding work in an effort to reduce his or her child support payment. 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Okay, you probably will not consider your divorce as a "best of times." But, you should remember, that as frightening and disorienting as it may be, it is something that happens all of the time.

And what is more, your divorce attorney has witnessed many, many couples and heard the complaints and the bizarre behavior and activities of other spouses. And they can probably tell stories of situations that may truly qualify as the worst of times.

But they won't be disoriented or flustered. That is why you are paying them. They understand what is going on and will explain it so you, too, can understand. Your former spouse may be difficult to work with, especially in the heat of the divorce proceedings, but with the help of your divorce attorney, and your friends you can get through this.

Missouri same-sex divorces remain in limbo

Divorce is a complex activity for any couple. The emotional troubles and unhappiness of what went wrong with the relationship are compounded by the complex laws and procedural requirements that govern the divorce, and that is overlaid by the particulars of each couple's situation.

What are their finances like? Do they have sophisticated investments and own their own business or does one spouse have an irrational attachment to the family home? Do they understand the concept of the "best interests" of their child or children and are they willing to sacrifice their need to "win" every dispute with their spouse in order to see that their children thrive, feel secure and loved.

Can I get alimony in a Missouri divorce?

The answer is that most lawyerly of answers: it depends. Alimony, or as it is called in the Missouri statutes, maintenance, is available, but it is dependent on the analysis of numerous factors by the family court judge.

Also variable is whether it will be modifiable and when it will terminate. The judge will examine two factors to first, which relates to lack of property or assets to provide for his or her needs and cannot support him or herself with employment or needs to care for a child.

What does Equitable Distribution mean in Missouri?

In Missouri, when a couple obtains a divorce, their property needs to be divided as part of the dissolution of their marriage. Missouri uses the concept of equitable distribution to guide judges when dividing the marital property of a couple.

Equitable distribution means that a court divides the property in a manner that is fair. This is important, because "fair" is not a synonym for "equal." This can cause some concern for parties to a divorce, who may fear that either they will lose much of their assets or that they will be left with too small a portion of the assets.

Child support guidelines under review

There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the issue of child support payment and custody arrangements in many states, including Missouri. There are many "father's rights" organizations working nationwide to make changes to how states allocate custody and child support obligations.

This can be a very sensitive topic. While child support payments are ostensibly, as their name implies, for the support of the child or children after the divorce, they are seen by many as funding the mother at the expense of the father. Part of the problem comes from the use of anecdotal evidence, which tends to favor extreme cases.

International child abduction carries a steep price

Divorces vary so much, it is difficult to generalize. Some are reasonable, with the parties working to do the best they can for their children. The couple may have grown up and aged out of love and out of their marriage. But there is no real animosity, and they are willing to cooperate in raising their children.

But there is the other side of the coin. Their matrimony has turned into acrimony, and every interaction is full of tension and conflict. Not only are such situations bad for the parents, with all of the additional stress, and it is typically this element of the divorce process that can harm children.

It is not the actual separation, but the tension, conflict and stress that accompanies a marriage and divorce where the relationship between the parents has deteriorated to constant, bitter fighting that makes divorce problematic.

Can broken furniture break a prenuptial agreement?

For couples with substantial assets, a prenuptial agreement is often part of the discussion before they marry. A prenuptial agreement typically describes the distribution of marital property for the couple should they divorce. Prenuptial agreements present something of a quandary for individuals who are paradoxically promising their love to each other "'til death do us part," and at the same time, allocating portions of their assets in a future divorce.

Prenuptial agreements were once looked upon warily by court in Missouri and elsewhere, but most jurisdictions now permit their use. For couples with disproportionate assets, they could help reduce potential for conflict, as they allow both parties to the marriage to know in advance what the division of property will look like and help set expectations.

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