A court of law is the only way one can obtain a divorce decree, dissolution, legal separation, nullity or other form of terminating a marriage. Other than the termination of the marital estate, the court also has jurisdiction to resolve other issues that are intertwined in the existing marriage which include, but are not limited to: custody and visitation rights, division of property of the marital estate, spousal support, child support, restraining orders, etc.
Property and Debt Division:
Marital property attained during marriage, regardless of whose name it is under, can be divided. Marital property can include real estate (including a home bought in contemplation of marriage), pension plans, vehicles, bank accounts, income tax refunds and/or household furnishings. However, property that is inherited by one spouse is not considered marital property, i.e. a family business or estate. If you are contractually bound with your ex-spouse on a debt, the creditor can require the entire payment of that debt from your share of the property even though the divorce decree assigns the debt to your ex-spouse. Depending on the terms of your divorce decree, you may be able to have certain support obligations under the divorce decree determined to be non-dischargeable by the bankruptcy court or in state court.
A prenuptial, or premarital agreement (often referred to as a "pre-nup") is a written contract created by two individuals who plan to be married. This agreement lists all individually owned property, such as homes and businesses, family assets, stocks and bonds, savings accounts as well as debts, and specifies what will and will not remain individually owned property after the legalization of marriage. Prenuptial agreements also specify whether spousal support will be paid in the event of a divorce, and the intentions regarding distribution of individually owned property upon death.
Custody is the charge and control of a child, including the right to make all major decisions such as education, religious upbringing, training, health and welfare. Custody usually refers to a combination of physical custody and legal custody. Many factors influence an award of custody and the way a case is presented in court can have a large impact on the result for you and your children. If you are awarded the children as a primary custodial parent, it has far reaching consequences both to you and to their well-being and development.
Child support is a periodic payment made to a custodial parent from a non-custodial parent to help compensate a child’s living expenses, i.e. food, clothes, etc., and any other related debts. Missouri Judges use a chart to determine the appropriate amount of child support. Factors used in the determination of the proper amount of child support are: gross income of the parties, day care expenses, amount of overnight visitation by the non-custodial parent, to name just a few.
Spousal Support (Maintenance):
Maintenance (formerly called alimony) is temporary or permanent financial support paid from one separated spouse to the other, either in one lump sum or in installments. Maintenance is designed to provide the lower-income spouse with money for living expenses. Maintenance differs from child support because it is at the discretion of the judge. Child support is usually determined by state-sanctioned guidelines.
There are several factors a judge considers when deciding whether to grant maintenance. These differ from state to state, of course, but they usually involve things like the parties’ relative ability to earn money, both now and in the future; their respective age and health; the length of the marriage; the kind of property involved, and the conduct of the parties. In general, about the only time a judge will award maintenance in most states is where one spouse has been economically dependent on the other spouse for most of a lengthy marriage.
Adoption is the legal process by which a person becomes a lawful member of a family different from their birth family. Once a final order of adoption has been ruled by a court of law, the adoptive parents gain the same rights and responsibilities as parents whose children are born to them; subsequently, an adopted child gains the same rights as birth children in regard to inheritance, child support and other legal matters. In most U.S. jurisdictions, at the time the adoption is finalized, the adopted child’s name is legally changed and the court orders the issuance of a new, amended birth certificate.
Paternity covers all the matters related to proving the parentage of a child or children. For married couples, paternity of a child is assumed to be the spouse, unless there is a court order or judgment stating otherwise. For unwed parents, paternity can be established by signing an Affidavit of Parentage or by filing a paternity action with the court.
Legally establishing paternity or determining that someone is not the parent of child can have a significant impact on divorce settlements, property division, child custody, child support and the ability to move out of state. Determinations of paternity can also have a significant impact on interstate conflict between unwed parents.