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A Better Law Firm for Divorce, Mediation and Family Law Matters

Jackson County - Clay County - Platte County

We can help you make it through this event in your life. Whether you have children or it is just the two of you, going through a divorce is an emotional event. Even if you think you are ready, seeing your names in black and white on the Petition will bring out feelings of disappointment and maybe even anger or depression. Lots of people will give you advice, solicited or not, but what you really need is to hire an attorney you can trust. If you are ready or are trying to figure out if this is where your marriage is heading, we can help you walk through the minefield safely to the other side. If you have children and do not have childcare available, feel free to bring your kids with you. We have movies and toys here they can play with while you visit with the attorney.

Uncontested divorce/ no children for $1200 total in Clay or Platte County

Call for a consultation. 816-479-2700

Law In Kansas City
721 NE 76th
Kansas City , MO 64118

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Kansas City Divorce Lawyer

 

Not Sure You Are Ready

Not everyone who comes to our office is sure they want a divorce they need information in order to make the life changing decision. No person at this office will talk you into ending your marriage. Sometimes coming in to see us can actually help you put things on the right track. We understand that you need to try everything you know to do before you can take this next step. Some people do file and then continue to go through counseling to try to repair their relationship. Others who come to see us do not want to end their marriage but their spouse does. All the emotions a person goes through can keep them from making the best choices for their long term futures. Having an attorney who has been through something similar can be crucial. Let us help you make smart choices and find the solutions that are best for you and your family.

 

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Ready to File

We can file you within two business days, and sometimes sooner, if you have an emergency situation. Some people need an Ex Parte or Divorce Petition filed quickly due to domestic violence, a parent threatening to take the child out of the state, a spouse who is moving from the immediate area, or various other situations. We can help! Talk to one of our attorneys to discuss how we can meet your needs. You will be required to pay your filing fee and a retainer for attorney fees prior to the filing of your case. Even if you don't have an emergency, we do our best to get your case filed quickly. If you are in immediate need for support, we will file Motions for Temporary Maintenance and/or Child Support.

We will walk you through the process of determining if maintenance is appropriate, valuing and dividing the marital property, calculating child support, coming up with a Parenting Plan, filing the appropriate forms with the Court, attending Parenting Class (if required by the Court), mediation, working with any experts such as counselors or accountants and the various things you need to do after the divorce is final. Remember that you are the client. You have a right to know and understand what is going on with your case. We will provide you copies of all documents which are filed with the Court on your behalf and by your spouse. You will be asked to attend all pre-trial/case management conferences so that you can be a part of the negotiation process in any marital settlement and custody arrangements. While we are not counselors, we will listen to your feelings and needs and do our best to help you in any way possible.

Contact your Kansas City Divorce Lawyer

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Preparation for Your First Appointment

First, take a deep breath. Everything will be ok. Second, make an appointment. If you have an emergency situation, please let us know when you are making the appointment. We will schedule enough time, if possible, to finish your Petition while you are here. However, if your spouse is abusing, threatening to abuse, coercing, harassing, sexually assaulted, unlawfully imprisoned, stalking, molesting, disturbing the peace, following from place to place, placed or attempted to place in apprehension of immediate physical harm to either you or your children, YOU SHOULD FILE AN EX PARTE ORDER OF PROTECTION IMMEDIATELY. If this applies to you, see the additional information below walking you through what you need to do to protect yourself and your children. It is possible for child support to be ordered in the Ex Parte Order and the Judge can Order your spouse to make the house payment and rent payment as well. You can be safe even if you do not have funds available to support yourself and your children. Men receive Ex Parte Orders from the Court too.

There is an Initial Intake Form on this web site you can either download and fill out or email a copy to our office prior to your appointment. If you do not have all the information, fill out what you can. Read as much of the information we have provided to you on this web site and write down any questions you may have while you are going through the information.

Remember that whatever attorney you hire should be someone who is a good fit for you. Find someone that you like and that you trust. Take time to meet the staff who you would be working with during your case. Bring a small notebook and write down questions you need answered and take some notes. Discuss with the attorney which method of service of process works best for you. Before you leave, schedule an appointment to follow up with the attorney and sign any papers that are needed. Find out what realistically you can expect about timelines, how things work and what is expected of you. The best thing you can do is to communicate your thoughts and feelings to the attorney. We want to do our best to help you.

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Costs

There are many options we have available for our clients including flat and hourly rates. We cannot quote you a price without sitting down and discussing the particulars of your case. Attorney fees in a case may cost as little as $500.00- $750.00 if you have no children, no real estate, the case is settled and there are not any sizeable assets. The average attorney fees I charge in a divorce where the case settles and does not require trial ranges from $1,500.00 to $5,000.00. Depending on your circumstances, I will recommend you either pay hourly at $175.00 per hour or a flat fee. If you choose a flat fee, the contract will set out flat rates for additional work that may be required in the case. We will help you tailor the costs to your case.

If you are the party filing the case, there will be a filing fee paid to the Court which in many jurisdictions runs between $130.00-$150.00. If service of process is required by the Sheriff, you will also need to pay this cost. Costs for the Sheriff start around $40.00 and may be higher depending on the fees charged in that particular County. Further, you may choose to hire a Special Process Server. My server runs around $45.00 for the Kansas City area depending on how many attempts must be made and if there is a charge for mileage. If you do not know where your spouse is living, you might be required to publish a notice in the paper. These costs may be around $100.00. THIS INFORMATION IS MEANT ONLY TO GIVE YOU A ROUGH ESTIMATE AND NO FEES OR COSTS ARE GUARANTEED.

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Jurisdiction and Venue

In order to file for divorce in Missouri, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of the state for at least 90 days. The person filing the Petition is called the "Petitioner" and the other spouse will be known as the "Respondent." The Petition is filed in the Circuit Court where the Petitioner resides. If you have children, the Missouri Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act may be applicable in determining whether the Court will have jurisdiction over the children. The general rule is that the children must have (a) resided in Missouri for the past 6 months, (b) the child and at least one of the applicants has significant connection to the State and there is substantial evidence concerning the child's present or future care, (c) the child is physically present and requires emergency protection, OR (d) it is in the best interest of the child to assume jurisdiction because no other state could or would under any other grounds.

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Waiting Period

The Petition for Dissolution must be on file for at least 30 days before the Court can dissolve the Marriage.

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Service of Process

The Court gains jurisdiction of the non-filing party, the Respondent, by copies of the Petition and a summons being delivered them according to the Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Court Rules plus the Revised Statutes of Missouri. Either the County Sheriff or Court authorized Process Server will “serve” the papers on the Respondent. This may take 30 days or more, depending on the difficulty in locating the party. Many times we suggest that the client hire a Process Server we recommend to expedite the process. If you chose this option, we would ask that you bring a recent picture of your spouse and written information about their schedules and habits to help assist the Process Server in locating your spouse. Another option is for your spouse to sign a consent to jurisdiction and waiver of formal service. We will prepare the Consent; however, your spouse would need to sign it and have it notarized. Once this is done, we would file it with the Court. If your spouse has filed and is asking you to sign the Service of Process, let us know and we will advise you whether you should sign the same. The signing of the consent does not mean that you agree with everything in the Petition. It only means that the party consents to being under the jurisdiction of the Court and keeps them from having the papers served by the Sheriff or Process Server. Many people want to use this option to keep from being served at work or being served in front of the children.

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Time to Respond and Default

Once the Petition is filed and properly served, the Respondent will have 30 days to respond to the Petition. The response must meet the requirements of the laws and rules of Civil Procedure in Missouri and must be filed with the Court. Failure to do so will result in the Respondent being held in "Default". This means that the Petitioner could proceed without the Court considering any evidence from the Respondent. The Court will often award the Petitioner the relief requested in their Petition if the Respondent fails to file an Answer. It is crucial that if you have been served with a Petition that you file an Answer within the 30 days. Do not wait until the last minute to try to hire an attorney to file an Answer on your behalf. While it is possible to request the Judge allow the Respondent additional time to file an Answer, there is no guarantee that additional time will be allowed. Many attorneys do not want to face being hired at the last minute to file an Answer and possibly miss the deadline. If you do not have the funds to hire an attorney, contact Legal Aide. If you need the number, feel free to call our office and we will get it for you.

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Domestic Violence

Please hear me when I say this to you---You do not need to live in fear of your spouse and nobody deserves to have a spouse physically or mentally abuse them. Getting help can be frightening but we can help you. Just because you do not have money to pay your bills does not mean that there is no solution to your problem. In order to file an Ex Parte Order of Protection, you must be at least 18 years of age or under 18 years of age but emancipated. If the other person is stalking, coercing, or harassing you or has sexually assaulted you, caused or attempted to cause you physical harm or put you in apprehension of immediate physical harm or threatened to do any of the above, you should file for an Order of Protection. The Court can

(1) Award custody of the minor children;

(2) Order visitation, maintenance, temporary possession of the property, transfer, encumbering or otherwise disposing of property, and

(3) Require the Respondent to do any of the following: continue to make the rent or mortgage payments; attend counseling; pay any of the following expenses:

  • a reasonable fee for housing at a shelter
  • medical treatment
  • court costs
  • attorney fees

(4) or anything else allowed under the Revised Statutes of Missouri, Sections 455.010, 455.030, 455.523 and 455.085.

What you need to do is to go to the Courthouse in the County where you reside. Ask the Sheriff Deputy at the door to direct you to where you need go to file an Ex Parte. The Clerk will give you the form to fill out. As soon as a Judge is available, you will go into the Courtroom and will give you version of the events of what has happened to you. At that time, the Judge will determine whether an Ex Parte Order will be issued. If it is issued, the Court Clerk will provide you a copy of the Order and a Court date will be set for you to come back for hearing. The Sheriff will then attempt to serve the Respondent will a copy of the papers and a Summons to appear at Court. If the Respondent is not served prior to the court date, the Judge will ask you if you desire to keep the temporary order in place and have the Sheriff attempt to serve the papers a second time. A new court date will be set if the Respondent has not received service. If service was completed, the Judge will call the case for hearing. Each party will have a chance to testify. If you have any witnesses to the events, you can call them to testify as well. If you are represented by an attorney, they will ask you questions and help you present the evidence to the Judge.

If you are the Respondent, the attorney will question the Petitioner on your behalf. Respondents are given the option to consent to the Order without admitting to any of the allegations. If you are a Respondent in an action, speak with your attorney to see if this option is right for you. There are times when having a restraining order against you can affect your job or affect your ability to find certain types of employment. Discuss whether you have concerns about how an Order may impact your employment with your attorney. Violation of the Order of Protection comes with a possibility of spending one year in jail.

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Information for Men Only

Many men worry they will get a raw deal when going through a divorce. There is a perception by many people that men do not need Maintenance, Mom will be the primary custodian and Dad will only get every other weekend. This is not always the case. The issues in a divorce depend on many factors and we will work with you to find the best solution for your family. The duty of the Court is to determine what is in the best interest of the children. This could mean that Dad should be the primary custodian or that Dad has significant contact with the child. As the child grows up, the needs of all the parties will change. In coming up with a Parenting Plan, we will help you look ahead and address those issues now rather than having to go back to Court down the line. While the calculation of child support can be adjusted for significant parenting time for the non-custodial parent, this should not be the motivating factor for determining how much time you want to spend with your child.

Trying to get through the Divorce can be an emotional time not just for your wife, but for you as well. There could be issues of infidelity, paternity, how to divide holidays or how to handle a wife who is emotionally unstable. The children may be struggling to figure out what is going on and they are hurting. We will do as much as we can to be sensitive to your needs and help you to understand the family dynamics.

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Dividing the Marital Property

In Missouri, the property is divided into two categories: Marital and Non-Marital property. Marital property is generally any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, unless the property is acquired in a specific manner described below. Non-Marital property includes property acquired by gift, will, or descent; property acquired in exchange for property acquired by gift, will or descent; property acquired after legal separation; property excluded by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement; and increases in value of non-marital property described above unless the increase is with marital assets. This also may include property you owned when you came into the marriage; however there are exceptions to this general rule. While Non-Marital property is normally set aside to that party, it may still be considered as part of the total circumstances in determining a fair allocation of the marital property and in making a determination as to whether maintenance is appropriate for a party.

During the course of the case, the parties will likely enter into Discovery to verify the assets of the parties. This may be done by written questions called Interrogatories or by requesting information which is called a Request for Production of Documents. These requests can be quite extensive and a great deal of information can be requested under this procedure. Additional gathering of information can be done by a Deposition. A Deposition is an oral examination by the attorney who will ask one of the parties questions in front of a Court Reporter. The Court Reporter will take down the questions and answers and reduce it all to a written transcript. A client may also hire an investigator to find out what assets the spouse may have that they are not disclosing. If necessary, additional parties such as accountants, employers, bank employees, business partners, financial planners, or other professionals may be deposed. The attorney can have a subpoena issued to the individual if they are not willing to voluntarily agree to be deposed. Discovery will enable the parties and their attorneys to enter into fully informed settlement negotiations and will assist the Court in determining the facts of the case in the event of trial. A Marital Settlement Agreement may be unenforceable if either party fails to make a full disclosure or coerces the other party into signing it. Therefore it is vital that all assets be listed in the Settlement Agreement even if they are future interests in property.

The parties may either enter into a Property Settlement Agreement or ask the Court to make a determination as to how the property is to be divided. If the parties do agree, the Court will make a determination whether the agreement is not unconscionable. The Property Settlement Agreement will then be incorporated into the final Decree of Dissolution. If the Court is called upon to determine the division of the property the Court will first determine whether the property is Marital or Non-Marital. After the Court determines whether the property is Marital or Non-Marital, then the property will be divided and set aside to each party as their sole and separate property. The Court divides the property in a manner the Judge deems is equitable, after consideration of the economic circumstances of the parties, contributions to the acquisition of the marital property, the value of each party's non-marital property, conduct during the marriage, and the custodial arrangements of the children.

Once the Final Order is signed by the Judge, there may still be some things you need to do. One of the parties may need to refinance a house or car or some other secured property to remove the other party's liability on the debt. If the parties own real estate, the Judgment will need to be filed with the Recorder of Deeds in the County where the property is located. A party may need to sign documents to change the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or a pension. There are many things which still may need to be done and you should discuss what loose ends need to be tied up with your attorney to make sure that the property division is completed. Further, you should update your Last Will and Testament. We can help you accomplish these objectives and make sure that you are ready to get on with the rest of your life.

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Contact your KC Divorce Lawyer

Maintenance

The obligation of spouses to support each other does not necessarily terminate when they divorce. If the divorce leaves one spouse with very little income and the other with enough to contribute to the low-income spouse's support, the Court will usually award maintenance, at least temporarily. Maintenance, sometimes known as alimony, is support for your spouse or former spouse. Maintenance is not just awarded to the wife and can be awarded to a husband if it is warranted. Now, either spouse may be awarded maintenance if the other has the more substantial income and the recipient spouse's income is insufficient to support him or her at the level to which the spouses were accustomed during the marriage. In order for Maintenance to be awarded, the Court must find that the spouse seeking maintenance (1) lacks sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs, and (2) is unable to support themselves through appropriate employment. If it is determined that Maintenance is not needed, such award is non-modifiable and the party cannot come back to the Court or go to any other Court and ask for maintenance. If maintenance is deemed to be appropriate it can be awarded for a period of time ("temporary"), while the former spouse attends school or training ("rehabilitative") or permanent. The award can be modified as needed by the parties and considering the current circumstances of the parties. The amount of the award is determined by the Court after consideration of

  • The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to them, and their ability to meet their needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian;
  • The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable to party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;
  • The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to them and the separate property of each party;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age, the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  • The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and
  • Any other relevant factors.

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What Happens to the Children

Divorce is very hard on children. Your child will need lots of love and support to get through this. These issues do not end for the child on the day you receive your divorce. Younger children do not have the skills to verbally communicate their emotions and may act out or become withdrawn as a result. Older children may experience many of the same behaviors due to their keeping all their feelings deep inside. They are often afraid to talk to the parent who has left the home for fear that this parent will disappear and never see them again. Your child will need much reassurance that both parents love them and that this is not their fault.

You may ask, "What can I do to help my child?" Here are 10 things you can do.

  • Allow time for you and your children to adjust to changes brought about by the divorce.
  • Assure your child this is not their fault. Listen to their feelings and be sensitive to their needs.
  • Do not force your children to take sides. Do not voice criticism about your spouse in front of the children.
  • Allow the child to love both parents without feeling guilty.
  • Treat your child as a person and not a pawn or possession. Do not use them as a weapon to hurt your spouse.
  • Try to keep from using your child to fill the void left from your spouse's departure. Do not expect them to meet your emotional needs.
  • Provide your child with financial support as much as is possible.
  • Do not make promises to your child that you cannot keep. Don't promise them that you will come to see them and then not follow through.
  • Do not ask your child to deliver messages to your spouse.
  • Take care of yourself. If you are run down you cannot take good care of your child.

The Court will Order you to attend a parenting class to help you understand the issues facing your child. Many of the Courts in the Kansas City area contain information concerning the parenting classes and the costs for the class on their web site The popular classes in the Kansas City area are FOCIS, PTLA, COPE, COPE TOO, MARCH Mediation, and Brave Hearts Program. The Counties may also have a mediation program surrounding the issues of child custody. You can find handouts at the County Courthouse containing information on these programs as well.

Recommended reading from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts are listed below.

Co-Parenting: A Source Book for the Separated or Divorced Family, Miriam Galper, Running Press, Philadelphia, PA 1978

Joint Custody: An Alternative for Divorcing Families, Mel Morgenbesser, and Nadine Nehls, Nelson-Hall, Chicago, 1981

Mom's House, Dad's House, Isolina Ricci, McMillin, New York, 1980

The Disposable Parent, Melvin Roman and William Haddad, Holt Rhinehart and Winston, New York, 1978

Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce, Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly, Basic Books, New York, 1990

The Custody Handbook, Persia Wooley, Summit Books, New York, 1979

Joint Custody and Shared Parenting, J. Folberg, Editor, The Bureau of National Affairs Inc., 1984

You can also contact

Clay County Family Court Services at 792-7681 or on the web atwww.circuit7.net, Jackson County Family Court Services at 881-1653 or on the web at

www.family-court.org

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Child Support

In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or child support, the Court may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child of the marriage to pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the support of the child, including an award retroactive to the date of filing the Petition, without regard to marital misconduct, after considering all relevant factors including:

  • The financial needs and resources of the child;
  • The financial resources and needs of the parents;
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
  • The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child's educational needs
  • The child's physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time the child spends with each parent and the reasonable expenses associated with the custody or visitation arrangements; and
  • The reasonable work-related child care expenses of each parent.

A Form 14 Child Support Calculation sheet must be filed in each case involving the custody of a minor child. The support worksheet includes the amount of gross income of the parties, other court or administratively ordered child support being paid, court ordered maintenance being paid, the support obligation for other children in parent's primary physical custody, necessary work related child care costs of both parties, uninsured extraordinary medical expenses, cost of child's health care insurance, and an adjustment for the portion of amounts expended during periods of overnight visitation. This calculation includes an adjustment for earned income tax child credit. The calculation according to a properly prepared Form 14 is the presumed amount of support. The Court will order this amount of child support to be paid by the non-custodial parent unless, after consideration of the financial resources and needs of the parents and the child, the standard of living, and the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child, the amount is found to be unjust and inappropriate. Most Judges will require the parties to file an Income and Expense Statement prior to making a determination as to the amount of child support. The parties are stating to the Court, under oath, their yearly income from all sources. Since the income of the parties change through the years, either of the parties can go back to Court and ask for an increase or decrease in the amount of support Ordered.

Most expenses surrounding uninsured medical, costs of school or extracurricular activities and other expenses of the child are normally taken care of outside of the Form 14. Many times the parties split these costs equally or proportionally to their incomes. Our Parenting Plan sets out how said expenses are to be paid or reimbursed and set out consequences for non-payment such as collection of attorney fees and costs of collection of said funds either by a Motion for Contempt or other means.

Child Support Payments may be made directly from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent by agreement of the parties or the Judge can Order payments to be made through the Family Support Division in Jefferson City. The Order of the Court should specify when the payments are to begin (either a retroactive date or the first day of the month following the signing of the Order). If the non-custodial parent had made some contribution of support before there was an Order of the Court of if there was a Temporary Order of the Court and the parent required to pay support is in default, the amount of said default or any setoff thereof should be specified in the Order of the Court.

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Visitation (Parenting Plan)

Pursuant to RSMo Section 452.310, once a Petition for Dissolution has been filed, all unemancipated, unmarried children shall come upon jurisdiction of the Court in which this action is filed. Until permitted to do so by Order of the Court, neither party shall remove such minor child from the jurisdiction of the Court nor from any parent with whom the child has primarily resided for the sixty days immediately preceding the filing of the Petition. If a person fails in either duty mentioned above, the party would be in Contempt of Court. Many times a Judge takes temporary custody away from this party and grants a Temporary Order placing the child with the other parent. This does not mean that a parent cannot file a Motion for Temporary Custody of the child and ask the Judge to award primary physical custody to you. What it means is that it is never a good idea to take things into your own hands or to move without the permission of the Court.

There are different types of custody arrangements and a variety of different clauses you can include in your Parenting Plans in order to bring your child up in the healthiest way possible. Warning: It is easy to get beyond the focus of what is best for your child and let your emotions or anger against your spouse get in the way of doing what is best for your kids. Don't except the standard Parenting Plan. If you don't want to allow your ex-souse to cohabit ate while the child is in their custody, include that in your Parenting Plan. Other clauses are available such as no smoking, no alcohol, safety rules, religious preferences, school preferences, etc. Just because you are getting divorced does not mean that you have to relax the standards your family lived by nor should you have to totally change how the kids celebrated the holidays. Create new traditions where the old ways of doing things are no longer practical. Don't forget that your kids need contact with their extended family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Think about whether your kids will be active in summer sports and how your custody arrangement will affect their ability to participate in extracurricular activities. Please remember you are the parent. It is your duty to make sure the children have quality time with both parents and they have as much contact with your ex-spouse as possible. Sometimes it is hard to figure out how to make sure the children have time with their other parent when that person is not responsible, has an alcohol or drug problem, or somehow does something which is not really good for the kids. Watch out for trying to get your spouse do things the way you would do them. Parenting styles are different. Determine your core values and do the best you can do to be flexible to allow the child to have time with your ex-spouse.

If your spouse has a serious drug problem, has abused the child or in some way is not a suitable parent, you would want to ask the Court for Sole Custody of the Child. This would allow you to make all the decision determining the child's upbringing, including education, health care, religious training, extracurricular sports, etc. When a parent makes an allegation that the other parent is unfit to raise the child, the Court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem ("GAL"), for your child. This means the child would have their own attorney to protect them and represent them. The Guardian Ad Litem is paid according to the work they perform in the case and most Courts will require the parties to place funds in trust for the payment of the GAL. Sometimes the Court Orders the payment directly to the GAL at various points during the case. Failure to pay in the funds could result in the Court striking the pleadings of the party and allowing the Court to proceed without considering evidence from the non-paying party. An award of Sole Custody does not mean that the non-custodial parent cannot have visitation of the child; however, the Court could Order that said visitation be supervised by another person suggested by the custodial parent. Filing for Sole Custody should only be done when your spouse is an unfit parent and you need to discuss all of the facts of your case carefully with your attorney before you choose this route.

Most people file for Joint Custody of the minor children with Primary Physical Custody being named with one of the parents. Even when custody is split amongst the parties, one parent must be named as Primary Physical Custodian. Joint Legal Custody involves the parents sharing the decision making rights, responsibilities and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child. The parents must confer with one another in the exercise of decision making rights, responsibilities and authority. Each of the parents should have frequent and meaningful contact with the children.

The parents may enter into a written Parenting Plan which sets out the details of the custodial arrangements including support, additional expenses of the child, and visitation. However, the Court must approve the plan and in doing so will consider several factors as listed below.

  • The wishes of the child's parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
  • The needs of the child for frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  • The child's adjustment to he child's home, school and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved. If the Court finds that a pattern of domestic violence has occurred, and, if the Court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the Court shall enter written finds of fact and conclusions of law. Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;
  • The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child;
  • The wishes of a child as to the child's custodian.

Other factors the Court may consider are the child's age, gender, the parent's physical and mental health, the parent's lifestyle, the parent's ability to give the child guidance, the parent's ability to provide the basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care, and the child's routines. Any Parenting Plan must be found to be in the best interests of the children, and any and all factors will be considered.

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Mediation

After a case is filed, the Judge may deem it appropriate to, or the parties may voluntarily agree to, use mediation as an attempt to resolve the issues in the case without the time and expense of trial. In certain jurisdictions, mediation is mandatory if the parties do not come to an immediate agreement. The choice of who to use as the mediator may agreed upon by the parties or the mediator may be appointed by the Court. The mediator's job is to be a neutral party who listens to the desires and needs of the parties and helps them to determine what issues they can agree upon as to property division, custody, visitation, child support, and alimony. Any statements or agreements made at mediation are not admissible at trial, but parties often use the agreements as a stepping stone to formulate the Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan.

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Post-Dissolution Issues

Tiding up Loose Ends

Once the Judge has signed the Order you may need to do several different things to make sure your interests are protected. Do you need to or have you done the following:

Record your Order with the County Recorder of Deeds

Make Changes to who are listed as Beneficiaries and Transfer on Death

Prepare a new Last Will and Testament

If the Court had divided Real Property, your attorney should file the Order with the County Recorder of Deeds where the property is located. If cars are transferred from one owner to the other, you will need to have your ex-spouse sign off on the title and have a new title issued in your name. There is a post-dissolution checklist you can download to make sure that you have done all you needed to do to effectuate the transfer of the property awarded to you in the Divorce. Further, you need to change the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies, pensions and any other financial accounts you may have. Sometimes these provisions are called "transfer on death" clauses and other times the person is referred as a "beneficiary." You will also need to prepare a new Last Will and Testament and maybe even create a trust for the benefit of your children. We can help you determine what estate planning is needed and would be happy to set up an appointment with you to discuss your needs.

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Contempt of Court

Failure of a party to comply with an Order of the Court such as refinancing a debt, complying with the Parenting Plan, payment of maintenance or some other action Ordered by the Court could have a number of consequences. Judgments for Maintenance and Child Support are money judgments and enforcement of the Order can be accomplished by methods such as levying on property, garnishments or wages or bank accounts and possibly bringing the matter back in front of the Judge. When a party fails to comply with the Order of the Court regarding visitation, the matter can go back in front of the Court as Contempt of Court of as a Motion to Modify. If the case goes back in front of the Court in a Contempt of Court action, the Judge can order delivery of the property or money, assess a fine or place the contempt party in jail for a specified period of time.

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Motion to Modify

Child Support, Custody and Visitation are always modifiable. In order to modify custody, a party must show a change of circumstances has occurred and that it would be in the best interest of the minor child for the change to be made. The parties may agree to a change in the amount of child support; however, in order for the change to be legally binding, the Court must approve the change. Filing a Motion to Modify is basically filing a whole new case.

When seeking to modify child support, normally the change in circumstances is a change in income. The change must be deemed "substantial and continuing" and must not be of a temporary nature. A 20% change in income of a party will meet the standard for a modification. The Court will also look to the financial needs of the spouse and the children, the emancipation of the children, and the death of a parent obligated to pay.

Modification of child custody and visitation arrangements looks to the same standard of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances and such changes must make the prior decree unreasonable. The change must be in the best interest of the child and the same factors used in the original determination of custody and visitation will be used in this action including the wishes of the child's parents, the needs of the child, interaction with other siblings, etc. The parties may agree to the changes and enter into a new Parenting Plan or the case may be heard by the Judge at trial. The parties will be required to file a new Income and Expense Statement with the Court and a new Form 14 will be prepared. Discovery can be done in this case as well. The process and paperwork will be very similar to what you experienced in your original case.

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Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements

A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a contract entered into by the couple in anticipation of marriage whereas a Post-Nuptial Agreement is entered into after the couple has married. The purpose of the agreements is to protect property from the consequences of divorce or death of a spouse. Unless the contract is entered into freely and with full disclosure of all assets owned by the parties, and in good faith, they will likely not be enforceable.

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After Hour Emergency Questions

There are times when situations come up during non-business hours and you do not know what to do. These situations usually surround a spouse showing up at the residence or something involving the exchange of the children. When this happens, a person has a tendency to panic and not know what to do. On rare occasions, the attorney will provide you with their cell phone number to deal with emergencies. This is done on a case by case basis. If you are reading this looking for instructions on how to proceed, here are my suggested course of actions.

  1. Your spouse shows up at your home and either wants to enter the residence or comes in uninvited.: Unless there is a current order of the Court restraining your spouse from entering the premises, you likely cannot legally keep him or her out of the house. If they are drunk or under the influence of drugs, call the police immediately. If they are threatening you, call the police immediately. If you anticipate this problem, discuss it with your attorney and they will advise you how to proceed. If you have a friend or family member you can call to come over quickly, do so. It may be a good idea to put on some clothes and leave the house. Your spouse may want to argue with you or prove that they can do whatever they want and you are helpless to do anything. If you are worried that they will take something out of the house, contact the police. Have a copy of your divorce petition ready when the officer arrives. Understand that the police may not be able to or willing to help you; however, they will make sure there is no disturbance. Keep your cool. You do not want to be arrested. Advise your attorney of the event as soon as possible.
  2. Your spouse shows up to pick up the children without agreement of the parties or there is a problem with the exchange: Do not allow the children to leave with your spouse if he is drunk or under the influence of drugs. Ask them POLITELY to leave and if they refuse, call the police immediately. Stay calm. Ask a friend, family member or neighbor to come over quickly. If you do not have an agreement for the spouse to pick up the children please use your best judgment. This is not about control. Your children need contact with both parents. You do have the right to know where the children will be if this is an overnight visitation. Make sure there is a clear understanding of when the children will be returned. Try very hard not to put your children in the middle of the discussion. While you may want details of what your spouse plans to do with the children, try to refrain from demanding information. If you just do not feel right about the situation or there is some type of conflict with your or the children's schedule, advise your spouse that you will contact your attorney the following day to set up visitation with the children at the next possible opportunity.
  3. You have agreed to a meeting place and your spouse is late or your spouse shows up early: The answer to this question depends on if your spouse has called you to tell you of the change. Do your best to be flexible. If you have a conflict, explain this to your spouse. Try to work out an alternate plan or offer to change weekends if that works for everyone. If your spouse does not have a cell phone or you are in an area where cell service is not reliable, do your best to wait for at least 30 minutes. Do not appear angry in front of the child. Explain to the child that his parent is either running late or something must have happened to keep him from coming. Reassure the child that the other parent wants to spend time with him and that you all will try to work something out so they can spend time together. If your spouse shows up early to pick up the child, do not make a fuss unless there is a conflict in the schedule. Try to be flexible. If this becomes a constant issue, notify your attorney.
  4. Your spouse follows you or shows up at the same public places:Public places are just that public. If you are uncomfortable then you should leave. If your spouse follows you to the next location, again I would leave. If your spouse continues to follow you or follows you to your home then you have a reason to be concerned. The best thing you can do is to go over to a friend or family members home. Do not go to a person of the opposite sex's home unless they are a relative that your spouse knows even if you are "just friends". If you were frightened by your spouse's behavior you may want to discuss getting a restraining order with your attorney. If your attorney is not available, you can file a restraining order by going to your county courthouse. When you come into the courthouse, ask the deputy where you go to file an Ex Parte Order of protection and they will direct you where to go. In most cases, a temporary Order will be granted while you are at the Courthouse and the Judge will set a hearing for a Full Order of Protection.

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Do your best to use logic rather than let your emotions take over when you are facing these types of situations. Notify your attorney of any problems you are having with your spouse.

Call for a consultation.

816-479-2700

Law In Kansas City
721 NE 76th
Kansas City , MO 64118

 

 

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LAW IN KANSAS CITY

721 NE 76th St.

Kansas City, Mo 64118

 

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Email: carriesue@lawinkc.com

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