Step 5: The big issues
Missouri Property division
In Missouri, the marital property is divided in an equitable manner, since it is an “equitable distribution” state. The court will make a decision on the division of the marital property and debt after considering factors such as:
- The economic situation of each party when the property division will become effective including giving the family home to the spouse who has the custody of the children or giving him/her the right to live in the marital home for a reasonable period of time.
- Contribution of each party to the purchase of the marital property and also the contribution of each party as a homemaker.
- The non-marital property value that is set aside for each party.
- Conduct of both spouses during their marriage.
- In case of minor children, custodial arrangements that have been made.
Marital property is all the property that is got by each spouse after the marriage except:
- Any property that is got by bequest, gift, descent or devise.
- Any property that has been acquired in exchange for any property got before the marriage or got in exchange of property got by bequest, gift, descent or devise.
- Property got by the spouse after the decree of legal separation.
- Any property that is excluded by a valid written agreement between the spouses.
- Any increase in the value of the property got before the marriage unless the marital assets including the labor have contributed to the increase of value.
Alimony / Spousal Support
The court may order a spouse to pay alimony or spousal maintenance to the other if the spouse is not self-supporting. However, before passing the order for spousal support, the judge will consider the following:
- Financial resources of each spouse
- Assets and debts
- Earning capacity
- Length of the marriage and
- Conduct of each spouse during the marriage
If there is a significant change in the circumstances of either of the spouses, then the amount of alimony may be modified. An award of spousal maintenance terminates automatically if the spouse who is receiving the alimony gets remarried.
Child Custody Laws
The Missouri court is guided by the best interests of the child when making the order for child custody. If the parents agree on the custody arrangements, then they can submit the same to the court and this will be adopted if the court finds the agreement in the best interests of the child.
However, if both parents are unable to agree on the custody, then the court will consider factors such as parents’ wishes, relationship of the child with each parent, siblings and any other significant members of the family and friends, which of the parents will encourage the relationship of the child with the other parent and how the child is able to adjust to his/her home, community and school.
The objective of the judge is to ensure that both parents are actively involved in the child’s upbringing and so the sex, age or financial status of the parent are not pertinent factors. If either parent wants any change in the custody order, he/she must show a substantial change in his/her circumstances.
To determine the child support amount, the state guidelines are used on the basis of the combined income of both spouses. The court also considers the financial needs and resources of the parent and child, the physical, educational and emotional needs of the child and the earlier standard of living of the child.
Until the child reaches the age of 18 years, child support will continue, unless in case of an exception such as if the child is disabled or the child is attending graduate school or college. In Missouri, the child support obligations are enforced by the Department of Social Services.