Articles Posted in Divorce

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1courtscovid-300x202Effective May 16, 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court’s Order established a four (4) phased plan to reopen courthouses across our State.  This operational directive applies to all State Courts in Missouri and explains the criteria for  how all 46 judicial circuits in Missouri will reopen access to staff, attorneys and the general public.

The four (4) phases transition from the most restrictive (phase “0”) to the least restrictive (phase “3”).  The highlights of the Court’s order are as follows:

In phase “0”, which courthouses across Missouri have largely been operating under since the original Order from the Missouri Supreme Court on March 16, 2020 , all in-person hearings are restricted or prohibited, with few exceptions, such as emergency matters dealing directly with the safety of individuals and proceedings necessary to protect certain constitutional rights of criminal defendants.

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As a result of the ongoing pandemic due to the corona virus, on Friday April 17th the Supreme Court of Missouri extended its order prohibiting in-person1-Supreme-Court-judges-bench-portrait-July-2019-300x205 hearings in Missouri courts, now through May 15th, 2020.  However, despite this limitation,  most courts have adopted protocols to continue to move forward with their cases.  In this blog we discuss the latest on how many local family court judges  are treating existing orders requiring the exchange of custody of  children in light of statewide and local stay-at-home orders, as well as how local courts continue assisting those in need of  protection from domestic violence.

As mentioned in a previously blog, through the use of video conferencing platforms such as Webex and Zoom, family court judges are able to conference with attorneys to handle non-testimonial motions and to hold settlement conferences and pre-trial conferences normally used to discuss the issues of the parties, in an effort to facilitate resolution of issues prior to trial.

St. Charles County Family Court Addresses Custody Orders in Light of the Pandemic.

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As a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 1mediationMissouri and the requirement that citizens practice social distancing to combat the spread of the virus, by order of the Supreme Court of Missouri, every courthouse in Missouri is closed to in-person hearings, with few exceptions.   As of the time of this blog, the order extends through May 15, 2020.

As most litigants experience, our court system’s ability to react to and address issues in a contested dissolution or custody matter can be slow, under the best of circumstances.  With the disruption of dockets and the cancellation of hearings that will need to be reset, it is not difficult to anticipate further delay once the prohibition is lifted and those cases that were delayed are reintegrated into the court’s calendar.

An alternative to the normal litigation process that can shorten the time until the conclusion of your divorce or custody matter is the process of Mediation, which can take place either prior to filing your case or after your case has been filed.   The authority of resolving  legal disputes and specifically family law matters through the use of mediation is established both by statute and by the rules of Supreme Court of Missouri.

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1covid19-300x154In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the direction to increase social distancing, on April 17th, 2020 the Supreme Court of Missouri entered an Order extending its previous prohibition on in-person court appearances through May 15th, 2020.   With the exponential increase in the number of the COVID-19 cases in Missouri, and the previous extension of the closure, we can anticipate the possibility that  this Order will be extended past May 15th, 2020.  This can cause even greater uncertainty for those who are involved with the legal system.    The following is a response to frequently asked questions from non-lawyers regarding their cases, that will hopefully reduce some of that uncertainty:

Does the prohibition on court appearances mean that my case will be starting over?

No. Your case will not be dismissed as a result of the Missouri Supreme Court Order of March 22, 2020.  The prohibition is only applicable to most personal appearances at the court house.    All work and judicial orders, including any previously completed of discovery  and interim judicial orders, entered  prior to the closure of Missouri courthouses remain in effect as part of your on-going matter.   Unless otherwise extended, previous deadlines established by prior court order, Missouri Supreme Court Rule or statute for matters such as the filing of responsive pleadings, the filing of motions and the answering of discovery remain in effect.

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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 →

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money&marriage.jpgAs a family law practitioner one of the most common explanations, given by new clients, as to why they have remained in an unhealthy and often times oppressive marriage is the feeling of being financially trapped due to the unknown financial consequences if they leave the marriage . This is typically due to either one parties’ almost exclusive reliance upon the income of his or her spouse to provide for the family’s financial needs; or that the financial circumstances of the parties lead a client to believe that a divorce or legal separation will only cause more financial hardship. In those circumstances, client’s may elect to stay in the relationship in hopes that by doing so they can address their financial problems prior to addressing their marital problems.

In today’s blog we take a broad look at the potential financial impact of divorce and some specific tools which are available to address both the short- term and long- term needs of a client.
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Divorce.jpgIn Part I of our most recent blog we discussed how important it is to determine an attorney’s level of experience with family law and those specific issues which are of particular importance to the client. Further, we addressed how important it is that potential clients evaluate their comfort level with the attorney and his or her staff. The client should feel confident that the attorney: has a good understanding of the client’s unique situation; that they are able to communicate to the client a legal strategy to assist them; and that the attorney and staff have the competence to execute that strategy. In today’s blog, we cover the importance of evaluating the attorney’s familiarity with the venue in which the divorce will be pending and the particular judge who may be presiding over that divorce. We will also discuss the importance of having a clear understanding of the billing practice of the attorney and the attorney’s office.
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