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Your St. Louis Divorce: The Basics

Maybe he's been spending too much time at the Hollywood Casino. Maybe you found out that she's a Cubs fan! Whatever your reason for getting divorced, you likely have a few questions about the process and want to know more about your rights and obligations before and after divorce. We've provided basic information on some of the legal issues raised by divorce, and what to expect from the divorce process in St. Louis.

When do St. Louis courts allow divorces?

You may have more than one reason for wanting to separate from your spouse, but Missouri courts only recognize a few permissible, specific reasons for divorce (called "dissolution of marriage"). If both spouses agree to the divorce, you can pursue no-fault divorce. In this case, you can cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce. This means that the marriage is broken beyond repair, and there is no chance of saving the marriage.

If only one spouse wants to divorce, Missouri law says that the spouse can only divorce for a few specific reasons. Those reasons are adultery, cruelty, abandonment, or living apart for one year before the divorce if both spouses agree on the separation, or two years if only one spouse wanted to live apart.

Who gets the house, the car, our savings?

St. Louis courts will divide property using an equitable distribution system. This means that the courts will divide property based on what is fair to both spouse, but not necessarily split in half. Spouses also have the option to agree on how to divide property, which will make the divorce process a lot smoother. If courts have to decide on dividing property, the judge will look at a number of factors including the economic circumstances of each spouse, which spouse will have custody of the children, the property owned by each spouse outside the marriage, a spouse's economic contribution to the marriage (including homemaking), and the conduct of the spouses during marriage. A court will only divide marital property.

Will I get alimony? Will I pay alimony?

Alimony are payments made by one former spouse to the other after the divorce. In determining whether to pay alimony, and how much, judges will look at each spouse's income, needs, how long the marriage lasted, the standard of living during the marriage, and each spouse's conduct during the marriage.

Do I get child support? Will I have to pay child support?

Child support are generally payments made by a noncustodial parent to the custodial parent for the support of their child. Child support payments generally continue until the child is 18. There are a few reasons for continuing child support past the age of 18. Courts may require child support to continue if the child is still in high school, the child is unable to support his or herself due to mental or physical incapacity, or if the noncustodial parent owes child support from before the child turned 18. Also, as a related sidenote, child support and child custody are separate legal issues, and paying child support does not guarantee custody or visitation rights.

Will I get to see my kids?

Child custody is a common concern for divorcing parents. There are two basic types of custody (physical and legal) which can be shared between parents or held by one (joint and sole, respectively). One common arrangement is for children to stay with one parent during the week, and another on the weekends. This is an example of joint physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions in the child's life. If there is evidence of addiction, abuse, or violence by one parent, an award of custody to that parent is unlikely. If a parent is not granted custody of a child, visitation may be an option.

If you would like to know more about the divorce process, as well as your rights and obligations as a parent and former spouse, consulting with an attorney in St. Louis who has experience in family law may help. An attorney will be able to answer questions that are specific to your case, and help you navigate the legal issues that go beyond divorce itself.

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