On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Friday July 12, 2013
All the circuit courts in Missouri adopt their own local rules to supplement the implementation of the rules of procedure adopted by the Supreme Court. In practice, local rules allow all the circuit courts to experiment with how best to effectively and efficiently process cases.
St. Louis County has adopted Local Rule 68 to govern family court actions, and contains several mandatory requirements of great benefit to all parties in a family court case. Because the requirements are mandatory, litigants in St. Louis County family court need to understand their obligations under the rule.
Local Rule 68.3, entitled “Automatic Family Court Order,” issues to all parties upon the filing of a new divorce case. It has several valuable provisions designed to keep conflict to a minimum during the proceeding and ensure that both parties deal fairly with each other until an entry of a final judgment. These provisions include:
- A mutual “be nice” order – no threats, no abusive language or conduct, no stalking or disturbing the peace of the other, including not only the other spouse but also the minor children
- No hiding or damaging property
- No stoppage of health insurance coverage
- No relocation without consent of the other party or order of the Court
- No termination of utilities (gas, electric, cable, phone)
- A freeze on all assets, which means neither party may drain a bank account, a pension, an IRA or a stock portfolio without the consent of the other party, or sell any of the property the parties own or take out loans or mortgages on any of the property jointly owned
- No extraordinary credit card expenses without consent of both parties or order of the Court – only regular, ordinary course of daily living expenses may be added to the credit card balance
The purpose of these restrictions on behavior is to preserve the status quo until the Court has the opportunity to review the evidence and enter a final judgment. Think of this as the “golden rule” of a divorce proceeding – do unto the other spouse as you would have him or her do unto you. With regard to property, the court cannot make a fair and final disposition if one party hides some of the assets, adds to the marital debt or disposes of assets. If a party feels he or she cannot meet financial obligations and needs access to some additional funds, the party must petition the court or get the consent of the other party first.
These rules are not just suggestions – they are firm orders with a heavy penalty for noncompliance: violation of the rules could result in holding a party in contempt, ordering an unequal distribution of property or altering custody of the minor children.
We think that more courts, if not the whole state, should adopt these mandatory rules of behavior, as they protect the children, the parties and the property the court must divide.
In our next post we will discuss the disclosure requirements of Local Rule 68.
If you have questions about St. Louis County Local Rule 68, contact us – we can help.