Divorce is a major, life-altering event in people’s lives. Few other life changes involve as much stress and upheaval. Consequently, it is not unusual for people considering or experiencing divorce to feel uncertain or afraid of the future. In this interesting article, the author notes that fear comes in different dimensions, including legal, emotional, financial and physical. Addressing all aspects of uncertainty through proper support alleviates the stress.
The legal uncertainty is real and understandable. Even though Missouri has fairly clear statutes governing the distribution of property, spousal and child support, and child custody, it is not at all evident how your case will end when you first meet your attorney. But understanding some key facts will hopefully help ease some concerns:
First, Missouri is an equitable distribution state for property. This means that all marital property is presumed the joint property of each spouse and should be split evenly. How that happens can vary based upon the financial circumstances of the parties. But, absent significant marital misconduct, the courts will split the assets and liabilities evenly.
Second, maintenance, or spousal support, is an option under certain conditions. Missouri does not see maintenance as automatic; rather, Missouri believes both spouses have a duty to support themselves and be self-sufficient. At the same time, Missouri recognizes some spouses, particularly those that have been out of the workforce to care for the children, will need some transition back into regular full-time employment, and so maintenance is used for that purpose. The court will try and find an amount that the other spouse can afford and is enough to help the receiving spouse make ends meet.
Third, custody arrangements are either joint or sole, in legal and physical. Legal custody involves the decision making for the welfare of the children, and physical refers to the actual periods of time the children are with each parent. Missouri has a preference for joint custody in both dimensions. In terms of physical custody, that does not mean pure equal periods of time, though that is the ideal. It does mean something closer to equal than not. Sole physical custody only happens when a court finds a good reason not to give a parent sufficient time with a child.
Finally, child support is determined by a guideline established by the Supreme Court of Missouri that considers the financial resources of each party and some key other variables to determine the presumed correct child support amount. A court can find this amount unjust or inappropriate, but it must give a good reason for doing so.
To address your financial uncertainty, the best approach is to do a complete inventory of your assets, bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, and other debts. Run a credit check to see if you find hidden accounts. Complete a budget of minimums on income and expenses and see what you can reasonably afford. Do you have to change your lifestyle in the transition? These are issues that if you put on paper early, you can better assist your lawyer in making good choices for property settlements and maintenance.
If you need to take care of your physical or emotional well being in this difficult time, see your doctor or consult a therapist. These professionals are often vital in getting through a divorce. Also, trust a few true friends or family for support.
Divorce is not easy, but you can feel less uncertainty if you follow these steps.
If you have questions about divorce, contact us – we can help.