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father-Son-300x150The family law system in the State of Missouri has recently seen a significant shift in the potential success of claims of third parties seeking custody rights with minor children.  This shift was further defined by a recent decision from the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals.

In the context of custody litigation in Missouri, a “Third-Party” most often refers to an individual who is not a biological or adoptive parent who is seeking specific custody rights with a minor child.   Often this individual has a biological or marital relationship to the child, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle.  However, a biological relationship with a child is not a requirement for a “Third-Party” seeking custody rights.

Section 452.375 of our Missouri Statutes provide in part with regard to Third Party custody or visitation, as follows:

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mizzou-300x199While it is not mandatory in Missouri that a divorced mother and father contribute to their children’s college expenses, Missouri family courts may order either parent to contribute to the cost of their children’s continuing education.  This can be done after a contested trial, or it can become an order of a court through a settlement agreement reached by divorcing parents. In fact, this may be done years prior to the children entering college.  In our blog we address how an obligation to pay towards a child’s college expenses may impact a parent’s child support obligation.

As we have addressed in previous blogs, in Missouri the presumed amount of child support a parent must pay to the other parent is determined through the utilization of a Form 14.   To determine the amount of support this form relies upon many factors, not the least of which are the income levels of the individual parents, the number of children and the details of the parent’s physical custody schedule.  What is not explicitly factored into the calculation is the cost of the child’s college education for which the paying parent may also be responsible.

Should An Obligation to Pay College Expenses Reduce Child Support?

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missouri-childrenIn most cases, child support  in Missouri ends when a child graduates high school after his eighteenth birthday.  As we have addressed in previous blogs, a parent’s Missouri child support obligation may also continue until a child’s twenty first birthday if that child continues his education beyond high school and meets the criteria as set forth by Missouri statute. However, in limited extenuating circumstances, a parent’s child support can be extended well past the age of emancipation; in extreme circumstances, it can be extended indefinitely. An experienced Missouri family law attorney can assist you if this circumstance applies to you.

 A physically or mentally incapacitated child

According to Missouri law, a parent’s child support obligation may be extended beyond a child’s eighteenth or twenty first birthday, if that child is physically or mentally incapacitated from supporting himself and insolvent and unmarried.

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law-libraryAs we have discussed in previous blogs, the method to calculate the presumed child support amount in Missouri Family Courts is dictated by Missouri  Supreme Court Rule and through the use of the  “Form 14”.    Effective July 1, 2017 a new version of the Form 14 will take effect.  In this blog we take a look at a couple of the major changes that could impact your Missouri child support.

Overnight custody adjustment

When calculating child support through the use of the Form 14, one of the significant factors impacting  the amount of child support ordered is the number of overnight custody periods the paying parent is awarded in the family’s custody plan.   In effect, the more time the children are in the physical custody of the paying parent the Form 14 adjusts, and the award of child support may be reduced. This adjustment is calculated on line 11 of the Form 14.

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pension planIn today’s blog we discuss the consideration of future pension benefits in the division of marital property in Missouri Family Courts.

In previous blogs, we have addressed the entitlement of divorcing spouses to retirement benefits accumulated during the marriage.  In circumstances when the parties have accumulated, during the marriage, savings in a retirement savings plan such as a 401(k) Plan, 403(b) Plan, 457 Plan, Thrift Savings Plan, or IRA, the division of these assets is relatively simple.  The present day value of the retirement asset can be verified through the most recent statement or by simply logging on to the account to check the balance.  In determining the marital interest, the Court will consider the amount of that value that has accumulated during the marriage.  That amount is generally marital property and will be considered in the division of assets in the overall marital estate.

However, in cases where a spouse has accumulated interest in a defined benefit pension plan the Court’s consideration of the value of that marital asset is not as simple.  When a spouse accumulates an interest in a pension plan, the following three stages are to be considered in the accumulation of that asset: an interest in the pension plan that has not vested; an interest in the pension plan that has vested but has not matured to the point where the spouse is entitled to receive payment from the Plan; and the final stage, when a Plan is vested and has matured to the point where the spouse is entitled to receive the specific benefits defined in the Plan.  In the final stage, the benefit is most often paid out in a specific monthly installments beginning when the employee/spouse reaches a certain age and/or has accumulated a specific amount of years of service time.

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military-pensionsMany Missouri family law attorneys who have been in practice since September 11, 2001 have experienced an increase in their cases involving families with Military retirement plans.   In today’s blog we discuss a potential pit fall when dividing a marital interest in these plans.

In the years following September 11, 2001 the United State’s Military experienced a measurable increase in the numbers of people enlisting in its various branches.   Along with the increase in enlistment came an increase in the payment of military benefits, including retirement benefits and disability benefits.

From the year 2000 to 2013 the number of military veterans receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)  increased by nearly 55 percent and spending for those benefits almost tripled during that same period of time.   With the increase in the number of veterans receiving some level of disability payment, it is incumbent on your Missouri family law attorney to be aware of the potential impact of a VA disability award on the receipt and division of military retirement benefits.

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private school costWith the prevalence of private grade schools and high schools in the St. Louis area, family law attorneys and judges are often faced with the question of how to pay for the costs associated with these schools when one or both parents decide to send their child to private school.  In today’s blog we cover how this can impact a parent’s child support obligation.

If you assumed that St. Louis has a larger than average percentage of students attending private grade schools and high schools as compared to other large metropolitan areas, you would be correct.  In a recent study by the real estate company Trulia, of the largest 100 metropolitan areas in the United States, St. Louis ranked 10th overall in a measurement of the largest percentage of students enrolled in private school.

Whether it be in a divorce situation or in a case where the mother and father were never married, the Missouri family court is often faced with a decision as to whether to assign these costs to either parent.

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money-magnifyMissouri family law attorneys and judges often wrestle over how property is to be divided when that property was acquired during the marriage from one party’s separate or pre-marital assets.   In today’s blog we examine the Source of Funds Rule  and its potential application in divorce proceedings in Missouri. Continue reading →