Family Law FAQs
How long does an adoption proceeding take from start to finish?
It depends upon the type of adoption. A step-parent adoption where both natural parents consent can take less than 60 days. A two-step adoption where neither adopting parent is a natural parent will take no less than seven to eight months because Missouri law requires a six month waiting period after the initial hearing. A contested adoption can take longe
Do the biological parents have to consent to an adoption?
No, the biological parents do not have to consent. Missouri law provides that a parents rights may be terminated for a variety of reasons including abandonment.
Are adopted children treated the same as natural children under the law?
After a judgment of adoption is entered the adopted child is treated as a natural child.
Does adopting a child cut off the parental rights of the biological parent?
Child Custody FAQs
What are “physical custody” and “legal custody”?
“Physical Custody” pertains to the right to have the child stay with a particular parent. “Legal Custody” pertains to decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child.
What are “sole custody” and “joint custody”?
Sole custody is when one parent is awarded full rights to either physical or legal custody. If sole legal custody, then that parent alone has the rights to make decisions about the health, education and welfare of a child. If sole physical custody, the child will primarily stay with that parent and the other parent may be allowed visitation.
Joint custody is when the parents share the rights and responsibilities of custody. With joint legal custody, the parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child, and, unless allocated, apportioned, or decreed, the parents shall confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority. With joint physical custody, parents share significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents.
What is a parenting plan?
In custody proceedings Missouri law now requires each parent to file a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan is a proposed statement of the type of custody, the terms of custody and the terms of decision making of the parents. The Court will ultimately adopt a Parenting Plan of the parties or may create its own Parenting Plan that it feels is in the best interest of the child(ren).
What does a typical parenting plan schedule consist of?
In the 32nd Circuit, consisting of Cape Girardeau, Bollinger and Perry Counties, the local rules defines a standard custody schedule the is generally every other weekend, one night every week, alternating holidays, with each parent receiving several days over Christmas break and every other week during the summer break. The court may modify this typical schedule as each situation requires.
How does a court determine who should have custody of the children?
This is not a full answer, but a court will typically look at a totality of the circumstances with the determining standard being based on the best interests of the child.
What are visitation rights?
Visitation rights are court ordered rights for the parent without custody, where they are allowed time to visit with the child to maintain a parental relationship. Visitation may be ordered as supervised or unsupervised.
If the child’s other parent owes back child support, can I deny them visitation?
No. A parent cannot refuse a parent visitation or custody time to seek a remedy for any reason. Refusal to follow a court order can result in criminal prosecution and a Judgment for Contempt, both of which may result in jail time.
What are the requirements for getting a divorce in Missouri?
“To get a divorce, technically known as a dissolution in Missouri, a party must have been a resident of Missouri for ninety days. The court must also wait thirty days after the action is filed prior to granting a divorce.
Missouri is a modified no-fault divorce state. This means that if both parties agree the marriage is over then the Court does not have to find a specific reason for the divorce. The term used in the law is “irretrievably broken.” If one party denies the marriage is irretrievably broken then the party asking the court to enter a judgment dissolving the marriage must prove one of the statutory reasons for granting a divorce.
How will a court divide property and debts?
The law says the Court must divide the property and apportion the debts equitably. Typically courts will divide assets relatively equally, unless there are special reasons to give more property to one spouse over the other. The court will consider factors such as the parties’ respective income earning capabilities, training and education, the source of the assets or debts, and other factors pertinent to asset allocation.
Will a court order alimony?
Missouri refers to alimony as maintenance. The Court may order maintenance if a spouse proves that his/her expenses are more than the income. If the Court finds this to be true it will look at the circumstances of the parties to determine if maintenance is appropriate. The Court will also consider factors such as income earning ability, training, and education when determining if maintenance is appropriate.
Will the court order my spouse to pay my attorney fees?
The Court may order a spouse to pay the other’s attorney fee if it believes this to be appropriate under the circumstances of the case.
Will it make a difference if my spouse cheated on me?
While not necessarily a decisive factor, the court may consider marital conduct in its assessment during the dissolution proceedings.
Do we need to live separately to get divorced?
No, it is not a requirement that a couple live separately to be divorced.
What information must be provided to the court for a divorce?
Aside from the general cause for why a divorce should be granted, the court will require financial information schedules to be completed, as required by law.
What legal matters does a court address when granting a divorce?
The court will address the division of property, division of assets, child custody, child support, maintenance, and other specific issues relating the marriage as needed and appropriate.
How long does a divorce case usually take from start to finish?
This depends upon whether the case goes to trial. In this circuit most divorces will be completed within a year. Uncontested divorces may be resolved within forty-five days if both parties are fully agreeable.
Grandparents' Rights FAQs
Can grandparents bring legal action to grant them visitation rights?
What is the process for acquiring grandparents’ rights?
The grandparent must file a petition with the Court. There are specific statutory factors that govern whether a grandparent can get visitation.
Guardianship And Conservatorship FAQs
What is the difference between a guardianship and conservatorship?
Guardianship refers to control over a person’s body (i.e. medical decisions, placement in a care facility), whereas conservatorship refers to control over a person’s property.
Who may be appointed as a guardian or conservator?
Anyone legally competent may be appointed subject to the court’s approval.
Can a guardian or conservator be removed?
Yes, however, it usually must be for cause and is a difficult legal action to pursue.
What is the purpose of a guardian or conservator?
Generally to manage the finances or protect the well-being of an individual who, because of physical or mental circumstances, is unable to do so for themselves.
What is the process for applying to be a guardian or conservator?
A petition must be filed in circuit court requesting the appointment. A court will then consider the matter and after a proper hearing may grant the petition, grant a temporary appointment (followed by a hearing on full appointment), or deny it altogether.
What are the duties of a guardian or conservator?
While not an exhaustive list, a guardian or conservator has a legal obligation to act in the best interest of their ward, submit reports to the court, obey court orders, and arrange for the care and management of the ward’s person or assets.
Can a child support, child custody or alimony order be modified?
Yes, if there has been a significant and ongoing change in the circumstances.
What is the process for modifying orders?
As with an original action, a modification requires a petition be filed in circuit court outlining the reasoning for requesting the modification and the change in circumstances.
How long does a modification proceeding usually take from start to finish?
In this circuit, a modification is usually completed within a year. An uncontested modification normally takes much less time and might be completed within forty-five days or so.
How do I prove in court that someone is the father of a child?
The parents can execute an affidavit that is filed with the state, a DNA test can be completed, or the parties can simply admit that the man is the father.
What are the rights of a person determined to be the father of a child?
A man found to be the father of a child may typically receive visitation rights to establish and maintain a parental relationship with the child.
What are the duties of a person determined to be the father of a child?
A man found to be the father of a child will typically be obligated to support the child.
Can the birth certificate be amended to reflect the newly determined father?
Will the court make child support and custody orders in the paternity action?
Protection Order FAQs
I am afraid a person is going to harm me; can I get a legal order protecting myself?
Yes, you may apply for a protective order by filing a petition in circuit court. Petition forms are available at no charge at the county court clerk’s office.
What different protection orders are there?
There are proceedings for the protection of adults called adult abuse orders or orders of protection and there are proceedings for the protection of children called child protection orders. Orders may be issued temporary and made permanent after a hearing.
What are the proceedings for protection orders like?
The petition is filed with the clerk. A Judge reviews the petitions and decides whether the complaints made in the petition are enough to enter a temporary order. An order of this nature must involve abuse, threats of a real nature, stalking or harassment. Whether the Judge signs the initial order or not, the petition is served on the other person and will be set for a full hearing where each side will have an opportunity to explain their side of the case.