Divorce Attorneys in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield and Beyond, Answering Some of the Top Questions Regarding Divorce
If you are like most people, you have neither planned nor prepared for divorce. Lack of knowledge about the divorce process combined with the emotional turmoil you are experiencing could cause you to make poor decisions that can adversely affect your life for years to come.
Obtaining a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, can be an emotional experience, but an experienced family law attorney can advocate on your behalf and protect your interests, and the interests of your family, throughout each phase of the process. Missouri and Illinois have complex divorce laws which detail the many requirements a person petitioning for divorce must meet before the divorce is granted:
- In Missouri and Illinois, one of the divorcing parties is first required to be a state resident for 90 days, and the court must find that there is no likelihood the marriage could be preserved. In Kansas, one of the divorcing parties is required to be a state resident for 60 days.
- If the marriage is not irretrievably broken and there is a reasonable likelihood it can be saved, a legal separation may be in order if you will not be living with your spouse. However, there is a common misconception that legal separation is an easier process than a divorce when in fact the process and cost is often very similar.
What is divorce going to cost me? Can I afford it?
At Stange Law Firm, PC, we work on an advanced fee (deposit) basis. No lawyer can guarantee how long a case will last, or give you a definite "cost" for your case. There are many factors that control your final cost including the length of a case, complexity of the case, opposing counsel, how cooperative the other side is, or if one party just wants to "win" rather than focusing on resolving the case.
Do I really need to hire an attorney?
Many people resolve themselves to the idea that they are capable of handling their own divorce. However, if you were charged with a crime, you would likely hire a criminal attorney to protect yourself, right? You wouldn't want to gamble with your freedom. The divorce process is complicated and navigating the legal system to obtain good or optimal results requires knowledge and experience. With your children, home and financial security at stake, you do not want to use your situation as a learning experience. You also save yourself a lot of money in the long-run when you have a divorce decree that is written clearly and helps avoid future disputes. At Stange Law Firm, we have the knowledge and experience to guide you and advise you through the hurdles that will inevitably come through your divorce.
Do I have to prove my spouse is at fault?
The short answer is no. In Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, there is an option for a 'no fault' divorce. This means the marriage is irretrievably broken regardless of the actual cause. This allows the parties to focus on restarting their lives and if there are children, focusing on their best interest rather than re-hashing past behaviors.
However, if there are serious issues, you can also allege other grounds for divorce including physical/emotional abuse, abandonment, drug abuse, etc. In Missouri and Kansas, these issues may be relevant in dividing property, deciding who gets custody of the children and spousal maintenance. However, in Illinois, it is not a factor as it relates to marital property and debt division and spousal maintenance. But as to custody and/or parenting time, conduct may be relevant if it bears on the best interests of the children.
How can I protect my children?
Stange Law Firm and Missouri, Illinois and Kansas courts regard children as the highest priority in the process. We protect children throughout the court proceedings, and encourage our clients to do the same. DO NOT make your children a pawn in your divorce. Your children will suffer and you will regret your behavior in the future, whether through your own guilty conscience or through a stringent court judgment. The children should not be brought into the proceedings. Messages should not be passed through the children. If your ex is late on child support, do not tell your child "Tell Daddy/Mommy to pay me the money" when you send your child for visitation. This confuses the child and makes them feel even more fragile than they already do as children of divorcing parents.
Our philosophy is to help you develop a new parenting relationship with your ex-spouse so the focus is on the children's future, not your past marriage. Stange Law Firm reserves the right to request that the court allow our withdrawal from your case if we determine that you are not focused on the best interest of the children involved in your situation.
What about child support?
Unless the parents have approximately equal custody time with the children, make roughly the same amount of money and/or agree that there should be no child support, one parent will likely pay child support to the other. The parent who does not have the children most of the time (also called the non-custodial parent) pays support to the custodial parent. There is not a presumption that the mother must be the custodial parent. Custody is determined by the court by determining what arrangement is in the children's best interest.
In Missouri's child support formula, child support is calculated using a Form 14. Both parents' incomes go into a formula, along with adjustments for parenting time, insurance paid and other factors. Each parent is responsible for a share of the child support, and the party who does not have custody of the children pays their share. In Illinois' child support formula, child support is determined by looking primarily at the net income of the non-custodial parent along with various deductions. In Kansas' child support formula, they use a parenting time percentage in its child support formula to determine the amount of child support in your divorce case.
Can I get maintenance? / Do I have to pay maintenance?
The only answer to this question is: It depends.
Maintenance in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas is designed to ensure that each party is able to meet their reasonable expenses post-divorce. There is no formula for maintenance in Missouri. The judge will decide based on the length of the marriage, work prospects for each party, conduct of the parties, the ability of the spouse to pay maintenance and a whole host of other factors. In Missouri and Kansas, the judge has a lot of discretion as it relates to spousal maintenance. In Illinois, there is a new statute in place for parties with income less than $250,000 that presents some specific guidelines.
How do I prove adultery?
Proving adultery is difficult. If you have incriminating emails or text messages, you have to prove you did not obtain them by illegal means. Even if you are married, there are rules about privacy issues, even if a computer is in the same household. Talk with an attorney prior to attempting to retrieve any incriminating information, to make sure your actions are legal and do not invade your spouse's privacy.
Also, you may not record phone calls between your spouse and their accused lover, and then try to use this information in court.
There are legal ways to prove adultery. If adultery is an issue in your divorce, speak with an attorney. We will tell you whether or not the adultery is relevant to your case. If it is, we can advise you how to legally obtain the evidence to help you with your case. It can be very expensive to prove adultery, and unless you are at risk of paying a large amount of maintenance, it may not be worth it. Please note as well that, in Illinois, the statute does not even cite marital misconduct specifically in the statutory factors for division of martial property and spousal maintenance.
Why does anyone use adultery as a ground for divorce if it can be so expensive?
Even though adultery is more common (or just more exposed) than it used to be, judges still do not look favorably on adultery. Some attorneys believe that proof of an affair may sway a judge to their point of view.
However, some angry spouses use the adultery claim as a way of attempting to achieve moral vindication. They feel that they will have some psychological satisfaction of proving that their husband/wife was unfaithful and that he/she was the cause of the end of the marriage. Having said that, rarely is this vindication worth the time and expense.
When is my case going to be over?
The length of a divorce can vary significantly. It can be shorter, depending on the parties' cooperation. It can be longer, if emotions run high and pockets run deep. Even though a very long, expensive, drawn-out divorce is almost never necessary, it can and will happen if one or both parties are unreasonable. Our goal is to bring each case to a conclusion through a negotiated settlement, if possible. This saves the clients a great deal of emotional and financial strain. Once the divorce is underway, and the initial pleadings have been filed, and the parties have attended one or more settlement conferences, the emotions that run high have usually cooled somewhat and the parties can focus on resolving their case as cost-effectively and quickly as possible.
Do I have to go to court?
Not always. Typically we have opportunities to come to partial or complete resolution in settlement of contested issues. We can use mediation, settlement conferences and other avenues to resolve a case without formal court proceedings. We have been able to fully resolve some divorce cases in a short period of time. Even if we cannot resolve all of the issues, we can settle most of the issues. In the small number of the cases where there is no settlement of all issues, we can either go through a short or long trial. A trial can be over within a few hours, whereas a trial on more complex issues can go on several days or longer. At the end of the day, the length of the case relates more to the ability of the parties to reach an agreement on all issues in their case.
What if I am in the military?
We have represented military clients and their families serving in the U.S. and abroad. We have successfully settled cases for clients living all over the world, without them having to set foot into a courtroom.
The Right Solution for You
In representing you, we will work to obtain the outcome that is the best for you and your children. We will discuss your situation, goals, and future plans. We will then strive to achieve these goals with the most appropriate legal strategy whether it is litigation, a negotiated settlement, mediation or collaborative law. When necessary, we are bold litigators who will use the court system to protect your rights and achieve your goals.
What is Collaborative Family Law and Mediation?
Collaborative practice and mediation offers many parties other alternatives to try to settle their family law matter. Both processes are distinctively different, which makes it important to understand the nuances of both. However, Stange Law Firm, PC has attorneys who are trained in collaborative family law and mediation. To read more about collaborative family law and mediation, follow the links below:
- Collaborative Family Law
- Collaborative Practice and Mediation
- Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law
Complex Property Division
The attorneys at Stange Law Firm have extensive experience in handling high-asset, complex and difficult divorce cases. We watch the financial side of your marital estate with a keen eye toward achieving an equitable division of assets and marital property, including real estate, business interests, investment accounts, deferred income and pensions. Our goal in your case will be to help you achieve the solution that enables you to move forward with your life from the strongest financial position.
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From our webpage, you can also read articles about family law, view informational videos, seminar videos, listen to our podcast, download our mobile application or view support calculators for Missouri and Illinois.
If these divorce FAQs did not answer your question, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm to schedule a consultation with one of our divorce attorneys. We have a number of conveniently located offices throughout the Midwest.