Divorce is more complex than many people realize, and once proceedings begin, they can feel blindsided by the number of financial issues their dissolution will entail. Filing for divorce will end your marriage contract and start a formal legal process of assigning ownership rights over the property you and your spouse possess. You will also need to resolve responsibility for debts, and if you have children together, a custody determination will be a large focal point of your proceedings. The result is also likely to carry significant financial implications.
It’s natural to be concerned about your financial well-being as you head into your divorce proceedings. However, the financial disputes that many divorcing couples endure as they complete their divorces are sometimes avoidable. Therefore, if you plan to end your marriage in the near future, or if you must respond to your spouse’s petition for divorce in St. Louis, MO, it’s essential to prepare when it comes to protecting your financial future.
An experienced attorney is the best asset you can have when it comes to avoiding many of the financial disputes that commonly arise in Missouri divorce cases. However, almost every divorce will involve some measure of a dispute over financial matters. Working with an attorney can make addressing these issues much easier, allowing you to resolve your case more quickly than you may have initially expected.
Property Division in Missouri
When it comes to the financial issues divorcing couples must resolve, property division is likely to be the most contentious. Missouri upholds an equitable distribution law that applies to property division in divorce. This means the court aims for the fairest possible division of marital assets. Each spouse may keep their respective separate property, but all marital property is subject to division. Contrary to popular belief, property division does not necessarily mean that each spouse will receive half of the total amount of marital property, nor does it mean that your soon-to-be ex-spouse is entitled to half of your possessions.
The equitable distribution standard requires careful consideration of various financial details. It’s possible to resolve property division privately through alternative dispute resolution. If the couple reaches a mutually agreeable resolution that they deem the fairest possible division of their assets, a family court judge may approve it with few to no changes. However, if the couple litigates divorce, the judge has discretionary power when assigning shares of equitably distributed marital assets.
The judge must carefully examine each spouse’s financial records and evaluate their respective financial status as they emerge from divorce. If one spouse was entirely dependent on the other’s income, or if one spouse is significantly disadvantaged in their separate property ownership, job prospects, work history, or medical status, these factors will weigh heavily in the judge’s determination. Such factors may also lead to spousal support determinations for some divorcing couples. In evaluating the total marital property involved in a divorce case, the judge must also assess the spouses’ respective contributions toward their marriage.
When parents divorce or unwed parents decide not to raise their children together, they require legally enforceable child custody orders that clearly outline their respective parental rights and responsibilities. Therefore, the Missouri family court has a legal duty to preserve the best interests of any children involved in a divorce. This requires setting custody and visitation rules for the parents, which will lead to a determination of child support.
Both parents are responsible for child support under Missouri state law. The state upholds that a child benefits most from access to both of their parents and that every child has the right to financial support from both of their parents. Missouri law holds parents accountable for the basic living needs of their children. If one parent assumes a greater share of physical custody over their children, they will inherently incur greater living expenses due to the time their children spend living with them. The judge will recognize this as the custodial parent’s fulfillment of their support obligation, and the other parent will pay child support on a regular basis to account for their share of financial responsibility.
The judge has the final say when it comes to child support in Missouri. Disputes may not arise due to the simple fact that the judge must evaluate the details of the case and assign a child support arrangement that aligns with state law. However, disputes can arise after a child support order has been finalized. For example, if the parent responsible for paying child support loses their job, they may petition for a temporary pause or reduced obligation until their work situation improves. An attorney is the best resource to consult if you encounter any issue with a standing child support order in St. Louis.
Most judges who resolve divorces in states that uphold equitable distribution laws tend to avoid spousal support or alimony arrangements. If a spouse would typically seek ongoing spousal support, a judge in an equitable distribution state may award them a larger share of marital property instead. However, spousal support may be necessary for resolving some divorce cases. Additionally, spouses who decide to pursue divorce mediation or other alternative dispute resolution may reach privately negotiated terms for spousal support.
The income difference between the spouses determines how much is paid each month, and the length of the agreement usually reflects the length of the marriage. Most alimony arrangements are temporary, but permanent alimony is possible in some cases.
Any ongoing financial arrangement between divorcing spouses may not remain as-is for very long after the divorce. It’s vital to remember that family court orders are more dynamic than other civil court orders, and it’s possible to petition for reasonable changes to your child support or alimony terms in the future should your situation demand it. For example, if you are required to pay alimony but suffer a critical injury that inhibits your ability to work, you could request a termination of your alimony obligation to reflect this change in your circumstances.
It’s understandable to have many pressing financial concerns as you head into your divorce. The best thing you can do to prepare is to connect with an experienced St. Louis divorce attorney who can help you address your divorce’s financial issues.