Does it matter which party files for divorce first?

Generally, no. If both parties are in agreement regarding the venue where the case will be filed, it generally does not matter which party files for divorce first. The party who files first is the “Petitioner” and the party who responds is the “Respondent.” If the case proceeds to trial, the Petitioner presents evidence first.

How long does a divorce take?

It varies. The length of your divorce will depend upon many factors, including the depth of the issues, the behavior of the parties throughout the litigation and the availability of the court. It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

If my child’s parent is not on the birth certificate, can I deny them access to the child?

Unless you believe your child’s parent presents a safety concern it is not advisable to deny access to the child. Missouri Courts consider which parent is fostering a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with the other parent in determining which custodial arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

How can I save money on attorney fees?

To reduce your attorney fees you can encourage settlement in a number of ways. I suggest parties mediate any property or custody issues early on in their case to see if a resolution can be reached before both parties expend unnecessary funds on attorney fees.

How do the court decide which parent should have custody in Missouri?

When the parties have not reached an agreement on all issues related to custody, the court shall consider all relevant factors and enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law, including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. The wishes of the child's parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
  2. The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;
  4. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  5. The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community;
  6. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved.  If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence as defined in section 455.010 has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law.  Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;
  7. The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
  8. The wishes of a child as to the child's custodian.  The fact that a parent sends his or her child or children to a home school, as defined in section 167.031, shall not be the sole factor that a court considers in determining custody of such child or children.
What is the difference between joint legal custody and sole legal custody?

Joint legal custody refers to a custodial arrangement where the parents share the decision-making authority. Generally, parents should confer with one another before making decisions for their child. Sole legal custody refers to a custodial arrangement where one parent has final decision-making authority. These decisions can relate to health, education, extra-curriculars and more.

If I have 50/50 custody, will I still have to pay child support?

Possibly. Child support is determined by a Form 14 which considers the incomes of the parties, the percentage of overnights each party spends with the child(ren), health insurance costs, child care costs and other factors.

I have evidence that my spouse was cheating. Does it matter?

It depends. Missouri is a no-fault divorce state. However, infidelity or other undesirable behaviors such as gambling, substance abuse, etc. can be considered by the court when determining the appropriate division of marital property or the award of maintenance.

Could I be awarded maintenance (alimony)?

A court will award maintenance in a dissolution when it finds that one party:

  1. Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him, to provide for his reasonable needs; and
  2. Is unable to support himself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.
What factors does the court use in determining an appropriate maintenance award?
  1. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian;
  2. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;
  3. The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;
  4. The standard of living established during the marriage;
  5. The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to him and the separate property of each party;
  6. The duration of the marriage;
  7. The age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  8. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  9. The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and
  10. Any other relevant factors.
I want to relocate with my children. What do I have to do?

You should consult with an attorney prior to relocating with your children. Notice of a proposed relocation of the residence of the child, or any party entitled to custody or visitation of the child, shall be given in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to any party with custody or visitation rights.  Absent exigent circumstances as determined by a court with jurisdiction, written notice shall be provided at least sixty days in advance of the proposed relocation.  The notice of the proposed relocation shall include the following information:

  1. The intended new residence, including the specific address and mailing address, if known, and if not known, the city;
  2. The home telephone number of the new residence, if known;
  3. The date of the intended move or proposed relocation;
  4. A brief statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of a child, if applicable;
  5. A proposal for a revised schedule of custody or visitation with the child, if applicable; and
  6. The other party's right, if that party is a parent, to file a motion, pursuant to this section, seeking an order to prevent the relocation and an accompanying affidavit setting forth the specific good-faith factual basis for opposing the relocation within thirty days of receipt of the notice.
When will my child support obligation end?

Unless the circumstances dictate otherwise, child support payments shall terminate when your child:

  1. Dies;
  2. Marries;
  3. Enters active duty in the military;
  4. Becomes self-supporting, provided that the custodial parent has relinquished the child from parental control by express or implied consent;
  5. Reaches age eighteen, unless the provisions of subsection 4 or 5 of this section apply; or
  6. Reaches age twenty-one, unless the provisions of the child support order specifically extend the parental support order past the child's twenty-first birthday for reasons provided by subsection 4 of this section.
When can I modify child support?

You can modify your child support obligation if there has been a substantial and ongoing change in either parent’s income which would alter the child support obligation by 20%.