Because of the emotional and financial consequences, divorce isn't a decision that most people take lightly. Even when both parties agree to divorce, the process can be fraught with emotion and confusion about the best way to move forward. During a divorce, it's easy to get caught up in petty issues and overlook significant factors that can impact your long-term future.
When you decide that ending your marriage is the best option, it's essential to have the support and advice of an experienced attorney. At the Lecour Family Law, our dedicated professionals are here to guide you through the complex process of ending your marriage with compassion and expertise.
Divorce in Missouri
Legally, a divorce (referred to as a dissolution of marriage) ends a marriage contract between spouses. That means that even the most straightforward divorce will require contact with the court system. A more complex divorce involving significant property, child custody, or spousal support will probably go before a judge. The attorneys at Lecour Family Law are here to help you understand the process, advise you of your rights, and represent your best interests.
An uncontested divorce is a dissolution of a marriage case in which both spouses agree on every aspect of their divorce. Key issues include child custody, support, visitation, property division, debt payment, and attorney fees. Even if you and your spouse can agree on critical issues, it's essential to have a divorce attorney working on your behalf. Without legal representation, you leave yourself open to signing a legally binding agreement that is not in your best interest.
A contested divorce is when the spouses cannot agree on one or more critical issues which must be resolved before the marriage can be dissolved. The most common disputes include child custody, child support, property division, alimony, or debt allocation. A contested divorce can also arise when one spouse is opposed to divorcing altogether. Experienced divorce attorneys will devise a strategy to represent your interests and goals. It's common for couples to reach an agreement through negotiation, mediation, and settlement conferences before the court trial begins. If both parties sign a settlement agreement, it becomes a legally binding document.
Missouri a No-Fault State
Missouri is a no-fault state, so it is unnecessary to show that either party is at fault. The statutory basis for a divorce or dissolution of marriage in Missouri is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If both parties agree, a judge may grant a dissolution of marriage after considering the petition and holding a hearing.
If one spouse tells the court that they do not believe the marriage is irretrievably broken, then a judge can only grant a fault-based divorce if one of the following is true:
- Your spouse committed adultery, and you can't continue to live with your spouse;
- Your spouse has behaved in such a manner that you cannot continue to live with them;
- Your spouse has abandoned you for at least six months;
- You and your spouse have lived apart by mutual consent for at least 12 continuous months;
- You and your spouse had lived apart for two years or longer.
If you plan to use substance abuse or violence as an issue in a divorce, it's best to document it and how it has impacted your marriage. This can be done by providing statements from law enforcement, social service agencies, family members, or other witnesses who can give first-hand evidence and insights. This evidence is often presented when determining child custody and visitation issues.
You Will Have to Go to Court
Only a judge can grant a divorce. If both parties cannot agree on important issues, they must go to court. A judge will hear the case and make decisions regarding custody, visitation, alimony, and other relevant issues. Most judges prefer that both parties attend all settlement/pre-trial conferences set on their cases.
There are usually multiple opportunities to settle issues without formal court proceedings. These can include informal negotiations, mediation, and settlement conferences in court, all of which will require your appearance. Depending on the complexity of your situation and how much you can resolve on your own, a court trial can last a few hours, several days, or even longer. The more you and your spouse can agree on important factors such as child custody and support, alimony, and property division, the less time you will have to spend in court.
Focus on Life After Divorce
Working with an attorney can help you focus on important issues rather than trivial ones. It's essential to consider your long-term goals when you decide to end your marriage. Whoever ends up with china or an old sofa likely won’t be important a few years later. However, agreeing to a poor financial settlement or a poorly thought-out child custody agreement can have a devastating, long-term impact on you and your children.
Solutions for Distributing Your Assets & Debts
Who gets what? This can be one of the trickiest parts of separation. The distribution of assets and debts can result in significant financial consequences for both parties involved in a divorce. We will thoroughly analyze your situation and recommend a property division strategy that meets your needs.
Determining the Proper Amount of Spousal Support
Spousal support, or alimony, in Missouri divorce cases is awarded on a case-by-case basis. If you believe you should receive alimony or child support, we can help. Or, if your former spouse is seeking support, we will gladly explain your options. Through this process, we will actively work to protect your rights.
Agreeable Outcomes for Child Custody Cases
While who gets what is a significant part of a divorce, child custody cases are vital to our clients. Legal disputes involving child custody and visitation are often the most challenging aspects of a divorce. Our law firm specializes in family law in St. Charles and St. Louis Counties. We will help you understand the options available and help you pursue the best parenting plan for you and your children. Regardless of how extensive your separation process has been thus far, contact our firm. We will be happy to provide you with the legal services you need for the amicable dissolution of your marriage.
Call the Lecour Family Law Today
Divorce is one of the most complicated legal processes people encounter. An experienced divorce attorney will ensure that critical issues, including child custody, support, and a fair financial settlement, are the primary focus. The Lecour Family Law is experienced with family law matters and can represent your best interests when you decide to file for divorce. Call 636-685-0440 to schedule a consultation.