Divorce can be an incredibly challenging experience, even if you and your spouse are on relatively agreeable terms. Divorce requires a series of difficult legal proceedings to resolve property division, child custody, and numerous other issues that may vary from case to case. Whatever your divorce entails, it’s natural to have a desire to simply want the process finished as quickly as possible. While it’s never a good idea to rush any family court matter, there are some things you can do to streamline your divorce proceedings.
Being efficient with your divorce is an excellent way to save money on legal fees. When you hire a divorce attorney to represent you in St. Charles, they will typically charge by the hour for their services. The longer they must spend working on your divorce, the more expensive it will be at the conclusion. Knowing how to streamline your divorce and what you should do ahead of filing your divorce petition can potentially make a significant difference in the outcome of your divorce.
Do I Need to Hire a St. Charles, MO, Divorce Lawyer?
You can technically complete a divorce case without legal representation but doing so successfully is likely to be far more complicated than you expect. The average person with little to no formal legal training would struggle to meet the court’s procedural requirements. Hiring an attorney may not be a strict requirement, but you need legal counsel you can trust if you want to save as much time and stress on your divorce as possible.
Divorce in Missouri is a multifaceted process. You and your spouse must divide your marital property according to the state’s equitable distribution law, resolve custody and support for your children, and address any unique issues present in your case. Every divorce will entail unique considerations, and an experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance when you need it most. Ultimately, hiring an experienced St. Charles, MO, divorce lawyer is an investment in the quality of your experience with the divorce process.
Discuss Your Divorce Before Filing Your Petition
The divorce process will begin as soon as a divorce petition is filed with the St. Charles family court. This will kick off a series of legal proceedings and impose various deadlines on the divorcing spouses. Therefore, before you or your spouse files the divorce petition, it’s best to discuss your respective goals and expectations for the process.
While it’s unrealistic to expect to reach any firm conclusions at this early stage of your divorce process, taking time to discuss your impending divorce can help to reduce uncertainty for both of you. These early discussions can help both you and your spouse recognize what you can expect as your divorce unfolds, allowing both of you the ability to adequately prepare for what is likely to be the most challenging aspects of your divorce. Of course, if you are divorcing for deeply personal reasons, or if one of you has caused deep emotional distress to the other and essentially caused the divorce, these early negotiations may not be productive or even possible. However, it’s still worth trying in most cases.
Secure the Documentation You Need for Property Division
Divorce ends a marriage contract between spouses and determines separate property ownership rights for all the marital property they share. Both spouses must provide financial disclosure statements to the court to complete the property division process. Missouri follows an equitable distribution law for resolving property division in divorce, meaning a judge will strive for the fairest possible division of marital assets when a couple litigates dissolution proceedings. Therefore, your financial disclosure statement must include:
- Real property ownership documents. If you own real estate in either your name only or jointly with your spouse, you must secure copies of deeds, titles, refinancing settlements, and all other documentation related to the real estate you and your spouse own.
- Bank account statements. You will need to provide proof of your income from all sources and extensive records, typically for at least the past three years.
- Investment account statements. If you own retirement accounts of any kind, cryptocurrencies, stock portfolios, or other long-term investments, you must provide documentation to establish ownership rights.
- Business details. If you or your spouse owns a business, you must be prepared for the divorce to influence your respective stakes in the business.
- Separate property ownership records. You can keep your separate property in divorce, but you must provide clear proof that the separate property claimed is indeed yours and yours alone under the state’s definition of separate property.
- Tax returns, typically for the past three years. Whether you and your spouse have filed jointly or filed separate tax returns, you will need to produce these records to complete your divorce.
Your situation may dictate additional financial documentation needs. Gathering these materials before filing your divorce petition will save your lawyer time and significantly speed up the property division process in your divorce case.
Take Advantage of Alternative Dispute Resolution
If you and your spouse agree to do so, alternative dispute resolution can significantly speed up your divorce. Divorce mediation and collaborative divorce can typically be completed in far less time than litigation would require, and both you and your spouse will save time and money on legal fees. Additionally, while you cannot privately negotiate every aspect of your divorce, you can potentially reach much more agreeable results than you could expect from a judge if you were to litigate.
Alternative dispute may not be feasible for every divorcing couple. Some couples may need to take an a la carte approach, resolving what they can privately before settling outstanding issues in litigation. It’s natural to want to finalize your divorce as quickly as possible and move on with your life, but you should not let your desire to end things quickly overtake your ability to achieve the best possible result for your case. If you are preparing to divorce in St. Charles, discuss your situation with an experienced divorce attorney to determine the best legal strategies available to you.