Family law encompasses legal actions such as divorce, paternity actions, child support and custody, legal separations, modification of prior orders, relocation of a custodial parent, and pre and post nuptial agreements. Many times when an individual is a party to a family law court proceeding it is a stressful experience. Further, friends and family members want to provide advice or tell a story of what happened when they were in family court. Every family is different and no two family law cases are the same.
A legal separation allows a married couple to live apart, divide their assets and debts, provide for spousal support, and arrange for child custody and support while remaining married. A legal separation many times is the only alternative for a religious couple who can no longer live together. Once the legal separation is granted, the parties are no longer financially bound to one another. Any debts or assets that are incurred or acquired after the legal separation are separate and apart from the other person. It allows each party to build his or her own financial independence and build a credit history. Also, when a couple separates for an indeterminate time period, a legal separation ensures that neither party will squander marital assets during the separation because the court has divided the assets in the legal separation order.
Many times after a divorce or paternity action, a change has occurred that affects a prior child custody and support order. The parties may seek a modification of the prior order. In order for a modification to occur, the party requesting the modification has the burden to prove that a substantial and continuous change has occurred that causes the prior custody order to no longer be in the best interest of the minor child. These changes can include a change in job, drug and/or alcohol addiction, remarriage, or a parent’s health has declined. Child support can be modified when a job loss has occurred, a substantial decrease in income has occurred, or the child’s financial needs have changed.
When a parent wants to relocate, the existing child custody order may be affected. The State of Missouri has a relocation statute that must be followed when a parent desires to relocate. The statute requires proper notice to the other parent. The other parent can object to the relocation. If this occurs, the court will have a hearing to determine whether the parent requesting relocation is allowed to relocate with the child. Relocation is a major issue for today’s parents due to the nature of the economy and the movement of corporations from state to state.
Pre and post nuptial agreements are contracts entered into by the two marrying parties that deal with the financial consequences of a divorce. These are contractual agreements that must be entered into voluntarily and not under duress. The court will consider the agreement in determining the distribution of marital property and marital debt. The court will also make a determination as to whether the agreement is equitable and conscionable to each party.