In every Divorce where children are involved, a parenting
plan is required by the court. A parenting plan lays out the basic perimeters
of the custody of the child as well as the support of the child. Part A of the
Parenting Plan deals with the legal and physical custody of the child. Part B
deals with the monetary issues that arise when parenting a child (for instance
health insurance costs, extracurricular costs and child support itself).
Unfortunately, when Children are involved in a divorce, there's always a good
chance that you are going to have to go back to court some day to modify the
agreement that you have made in your initial divorce.
Mediation can be a good tool for certain sets of people in
family law cases. In some jurisdictions, a certain amount of mediation is
required before you delve too deeply into your court case. Mediation can help
facilitate settlement. However, if the two parties are too far apart or have
poor communication skills with each other, mediation can be an expensive detour
from the process. Some cases are made for mediation and some are not. A good
attorney can tell the difference. Some might be in a grey area. A good attorney
can tell you that as well. In my experience, a lot of people look to mediation
to keep costs down. Also in my experience, it rarely does that. If money is
truly an issue, I would probably suggest to a client that each party talk to an
attorney to see if this case is right for mediation. If both say yes, then try
mediation. In this way, you will only have a consult fee for an attorney (one
for you and one for spouse or ex-spouse in the case of modifications) and then
also pay a mediator for his or her time. On the other hand, without at least
doing a consult first, you may think your case is ripe for mediation and find
out that it is not and that you cannot come to an agreement. At that point, you
have to do everything you would have had to do in the court system and you've
already spent a great deal of money in mediation, perhaps as much or more than
you would have spent on a retainer. And
additionally, no progress has been made. A consult might also give you an idea
of the range of what you can reasonably expect if the case went to trial so you
know that you are not agreeing to a bad deal for yourself.
Recently I handled a case in which Grandparent Rights were
at issue. As I have written before on this blog, Grandparent Rights are not as
strong as a Grandparent might hope for or expect. There are only special
circumstances in which a grandparent may ask for rights. Many times this is in
a divorce case or a modification of the order from that previous divorce case
in regards to the child custody portion of that divorce case.
The law allows for Grandparents to Intervene in Divorce
cases and Modification of Child Custody cases.
Not understanding the law and what you are
entitled to before agreeing to a Settlement agreement. For example, a lot of
potential payors on child support or maintenance don't realize how much the law
and the legal landscape has changed in the past decade, and therefore they end
up paying far too much, because of their preconceived notions and expectations
about what they were going to have to pay (notions which are probably based on
outdated societal expectations). Recently, higher credits for noncustodial
parents were allowed, but you have to know how to ask for them and why.
You can file a dissolution on your own. Depending on what
county you are in, some may be more difficult than others. For instance, here
in Missouri, in St. Louis County, there are some services set up to help with
this. On the other hand, the surrounding counties like St. Charles, Franklin
County, St. Louis City (separate from St. Louis County), and Jefferson County,
which admittedly are much smaller, do not have the same resources.
Additionally, none of these resources can give you free legal advice.
The answer to this is yes. You can always try to start the
process and call an attorney later if you feel the need. This might not be
advisable for a number of reasons, but if you need one, late is better than
never. That said, there will be times where most attorneys will refuse to jump
into the case. Taking on the responsibility of representing someone is
something that we take seriously. Coming into a case midway means a lot of
catchup for an attorney who has not been involved with the previous
When you marry, that act has many legal repercussions
involving how your finances are treated and your children are treated in the
eyes of the law. Therefore, it makes sense that when you are dismantling this
legal union that you will be asked to provide a great deal of information about
both finances and your children if you have them.
You will be asked to provide information about your income.
Information that you will need will be broken down on paystubs and W-2s that
will be helpful in providing the court with this information.
You will need to make what is called an initial filing. This
begins the divorce process, which in Missouri is legally referred to as a
"dissolution". An initial filing will include multiple documents. You
will need to provide court approved forms for some of these. Some of the
documents will ask for simple data like birthdate and date of marriage. Others
are more complex and will require you to "plead" certain information
based upon legal statute (a type of law). Also, these will need to be served
upon the respondent, which in this case would be your spouse or your spouse's
As discussed in previous blog entries, Missouri has a law
for relocation after a divorce when you have children that are still living
under the parenting plan that was created during the initial proceeding. For a
smooth transition to a new parenting plan, it is imperative that a parent
planning to move understand the requirements under the statute. Not only can insufficient
notice cause you to lose some of the custody rights that you previously
enjoyed, but it can also cause your move to become practically speaking very
This past month, Missouri courts published opinions on two
cases both dealing with the relocation law in Missouri child custody and
support modification cases. Missouri has multiple rules regarding the
requirements of a relocation notice from one parent to another when one parent
intends to move after a dissolution. Because the parents involved in the above
mentioned cases did not understand the language of this law, they put
themselves in less optimal positions in regards to custody of their children
and their finances than they otherwise could have been in had they understood
this law and how it applied to their situations.