Columbia Divorce Law Blog

Planning for the holidays after a divorce

With Christmas and the end-of-year holidays coming up fast, many people are feeling the stress of the season. For those in the midst of divorce, or recently divorced, that stress may be even more intense. With the relentless cheer of advertising contrasting with your emotions, the disconnect can be painful.

For those dealing with a recent divorce, a first Christmas can be challenging. Your former happy holiday remembrances may come back to haunt you like the ghost of Christmas past, while you attempt to deal with parenting time hand-offs and the complication of meeting obligations for presents and gifts.

How much do you know about divorce and Social Security benefits?

Recently released studies have shown how the number of so-called gray divorces -- meaning those involving baby boomer couples -- are now on the rise thanks to fundamental shifts in our nation's longstanding social patterns.

While it's certainly heartening to see these older people work up the courage to exit an unhappy marriage, it's nevertheless extremely important for anyone planning this step to understand that they have unique financial considerations that must be accounted for in any divorce.

For example, boomer couples mulling a split will likely want to consider how it may affect their Social Security benefits.

Even if the divorce rate is declining, you may still need one

The divorce rate causes a great deal of concern for some people. Politicians are always discussing it, and often attempting to pass laws that they hope may lower it, like Missouri's neighbor to the southwest, Oklahoma, which has enacted laws that enforce a waiting period, apparently in the hope that the couple will reconsider their divorce.

Social scientists and statisticians devote a great deal of energy to the problem, wondering why it happens, whether it is good or bad and what causes marriages to fail. Much of the concern over the divorce rate stems from the supposed effect on children. 

Divorce and your estate: do you have a plan for your plan?

Most educated people will tell you that you should update your estate plan after any major life event such as after marriage, having a child, the death of a loved one and yes, even after divorce.  But if you're like a lot of our Missouri readers, estate planning may be the last thing on your mind when going through the divorce process.  After all, you have enough on your plate.  Why should you concern yourself with your will when you need to be focusing your energy of dissolving your marriage and moving on with your life?

Because an estate plan lays out your end-of-life wishes -- such as what you'd like done with your remains and how you would like your assets distributed to loved ones -- it's very important to consider how your divorce will affect the execution of it down the road.  So what is the effect here in Missouri?  Let's take a look.

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.

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