The decision to end your marriage will influence your life in many different ways for years to come. One of the most critical effects of your divorce will be how your financial situation is likely to change. Divorce is not just ending a marriage contract; it is also the legal vehicle for dividing a married couple’s property, assets, and debts and assigning separate ownership rights over these items to each of the divorced spouses. Every marriage is unique; therefore, every divorce case will unfold differently. If you are preparing to divorce in St. Charles, MO, you should carefully consider the various financial implications of ending your marriage.
An experienced St. Charles, MO, divorce lawyer is the best resource to consult if you have specific questions about your circumstances and the potential financial effects your divorce is likely to have. For example, you may be expecting to pay alimony or child support from your soon-to-be ex-spouse, or you may be anticipating becoming a recipient of these support payments from your ex. You may also have concerns about your financial stability if you are a high-net-worth individual. Whatever your case may be, it is essential to obtain individualized legal advice as you begin the divorce process in St. Charles.
Property Division in St. Charles Divorces
One of the most important financial aspects of any divorce case is property division. Missouri upholds an equitable distribution law, which aims for the fairest possible division of marital assets in a divorce case. However, it is essential to understand that “equitable” does not mean “equal,” and the property division outcome of your divorce is likely to be somewhat unequal. However, it should be balanced considering the contributions you and your spouse have made toward your marriage.
When judges decide property division in St. Charles divorce cases, they must evaluate each spouse’s financial status. This includes their income, the amount of separate property each owns, and their education and job prospects. One spouse can have given up a career to be a homemaker or sacrificed other opportunities to benefit the other. The judge must consider these factors.
The property division process in any St. Charles divorce begins with financial disclosure. Each of the spouses must provide complete financial records to the court. Therefore, it is vital to be as accurate as possible with your financial disclosure to avoid potential disputes later in your proceedings. Additionally, if you attempt to hide assets to shield them from division in divorce, you could face severe criminal penalties for fraud and perjury. Therefore, it is always best to be honest in financial disclosure and to consult an experienced St. Louis divorce attorney who can help you ensure your financial disclosure packet is complete, accurate and includes any supporting documentation you may require.
Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a financial arrangement designed to help a lower-earning spouse find financial footing after divorce. For example, suppose one spouse is financially dependent on the other. In that case, the court will not allow them to be left with no financial support once their divorce is finalized and will likely require the higher-earning spouse to make regular alimony payments for a predetermined period.
The equitable distribution laws of Missouri tend to encourage judges handling divorce cases to avoid awarding spousal support whenever possible. For example, the judge may award the lower-earning spouse a more significant share of marital property to offset the need for ongoing alimony payments from the other spouses. The amount paid in alimony hinges on the difference in income between the spouses. The length of time the paying spouse must continue making alimony payments depends on how long the couple was married.
One of the most important financial factors of any divorce case is child support. If divorcing spouses have children, they must determine a custody and support arrangement that suits their children’s needs and interests. The Missouri family court system upholds that both parents must equally contribute to their children’s financial needs. In almost every custody and support determination, one parent must pay child support to the other.
When the court decides on child support, the judge overseeing the case must first determine each parent’s custody rights. The parent with more significant physical custody is typically considered to have met their financial support obligation through the day-to-day care their children require. For example, if a child spends 80% of their time with one parent, the other parent will likely owe child support since they incur less financial burden by only accounting for 20% of physical custody.
Child support lasts until a child reaches the age of 18, but it may extend longer than this under certain conditions. For example, parents may agree to continue child support payments until a child completes college. In addition, child support can last for many years depending on the child’s age when the divorce is finalized, and it is also possible for child support arrangements to change over time.
Modifying Your Family Court Order
If your divorce resulted in an alimony agreement, child support arrangement, or both, you might need to revisit the order in the future in light of unexpected changes in your life. For example, suppose you must pay child support but suffer a catastrophic injury that causes permanent disabilities and prevents you from working. In that case, you will be unable to meet this support obligation due to forces beyond your control. If you believe a change to your current family court order is necessary and reasonable, you can file a petition for modification to secure the changes you need.
Your ex-spouse has the right to contest your proposed change and offer contradictory evidence. The judge overseeing the modification hearing will consider testimony and evidence from both sides before delivering a ruling. The modification process can help you account for unexpected changes in your circumstances and help you avoid the penalties that typically follow violations of a lawful family court order.
It is natural to have lots of questions and financial concerns about an impending divorce. If you are ready to move forward with your divorce case in St. Charles, consulting an experienced divorce attorney is a crucial first step if you want to reach the fairest and most agreeable outcome possible for your situation.