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Family Law

Marriage

A marriage causes many legal consequences which affect a couple’s future life together, including: filing tax returns, employment-related benefit programs, and the legal right to inherit assets if your spouse dies.

When a couple decides to get married, they must obtain a Marriage License from the local county courthouse within 30 days before the date of the wedding.  Remember, you both must go to the courthouse with a form of photo ID and pay the required fee to obtain the license.

The laws in Missouri place certain restrictions on marriage with regard to age, mental capacity and gender.  For example, you must be at least 18 years old to get married, except in special circumstances.  Missouri also prohibits same-sex marriage and does not recognize such marriages from other states.  Common law marriage does not exist in Missouri.

Adoption

Adoption is a legal process that establishes a parent-child relationship between two people who are not otherwise related by blood.  Not only does the adoption create a new legal relationship between the adopted parents and the child, but it also severs or terminates any legal relationship existing between the child and the biological parents.  It is, therefore, a significant legal, financial, social and emotional step for all paties involved.

Any person seeking to adopt must file a petition in the family or juvenile court.  Missouri law requires that those seeking to adopt must be of good moral character and must possess the ability to care for, maintain adn educate the child.  The primary goal of each adoption proceeding is to promote the best interest of the child.

Annulment

Annulment is one way a marriage can be terminated.  In certain circumstances, such as fraud, a marriage may be  annuled.  Annulment generally means that the marriage is found invalid and both parties are restored as if the marriage had not happened.

Declaration of Paternity

If a child is born outside of marriage, a court must declare paternity before custody, visitation or child support rights can be established as to the biological father.  The mother of the child or the purported father may file for declaration of paternity with the court.

Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)

The usual process of terminating a marriage is through a dissolution, or divorce.  If you reached an agreement you can normally get the dissolution within 60 days after filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court.  You must wait at least 30 days after filing and service of the papers on the other spouse before the marriage can be dissolved.  In a court proceeding for  dissolution of marriage, the marital property is divided and other issues, such as maintenance (alimony) and child custody and support.

A dissolutionn of marriage is usually very comoplicated, and even more so if there are children involved.  The issues are very diverse and complicated.  It is strongly recommended to hire an attorney to represent you in a dissolution of marriage.

Custody of Children

In any court  proceeding regarding custody of children, the court in Missouri is supposed to look at what is in the best interest of the children.  When deciding who is to get custody of the children, the judge will consider the wishes of the parents, the wishes of the children, where the children will get along better, and other factors regarding the best interest of the children.

Neither parent can remove the children from the state until after the case is decided.  Whoever gets custody of the children cannot move them out of the state for more than 90 days without the consent o teh court or written consent of the other parent.

Joint Custody

Joint Legal Custody means that each parent shares in the decision making responsibilities of the children on issues such as education and health care.

Joint Physical Custody means that each parent shares in physical custody of the chilren, and may mean equal time with the children.

Child Support

Usually the non-custodial parent is required to pay the custodial parent child support in an amount calculated in accordance with a formula set forth in Supreme Court Rule 88.01 and Form 14.

Maintenance (Alimony)

When deciding whether one party in a divorce should be given maintenance, the court considers: the length of the marriage; the ages of the husband and wife; the parties’ work history and respective earnings; and the property of each party.

Division of Property

In deciding how to divide the property fairly in a divorce, the judge considers: the economic circumstances of each spouse; the contribution of each spouse in the acquisition of the marital property (including the contribution of a spouse homemaker); the value of the non-marital property set apart to each spouse; the conduct of the parties during the marriage; and the custodial arrangements for the minor children.

No Fault Divorce

Missouri has a no fault divorce law.  Neither party has to prove that the other one is at fault to get a divorce.  However, the court can consider fault in deciding child custody, support, and division of property.