At The Reynolds Law Firm, LLC, we’re knowledgeable and compassionate problem-solvers. We get results by being honest with you in appraising your case, being good listeners, and turning what we hear into workable solutions. Personal, individual attention to your unique situation is a hallmark of our practice, whether the challenge at hand is a stressful impending divorce or a joyful, long-awaited adoption.
Family Law Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a Legal Separation?
A legal separation is a legal action where the parties’ rights and obligations are determined while they live apart, but are not divorced. A legal separation establishes the rights and obligations between the spouses regarding such issues as child custody, visitation, and spousal maintenance (alimony). It also divides property and usually debt. However, unlike a divorce, the marital bonds are not dissolved and the spouses continue to be husband and wife. Once a legal separation has been in effect for more than ninety (90) days, either party may move to dissolve the marriage.
What is a Divorce?
A divorce is a legal action where the parties’ marriage is dissolved, and other determinations are made concerning division of assets, debts, child custody and support. The court will also make a determination regarding the necessity of spousal support (a/k/a maintenance / alimony) and apportionment of legal fees. Divorce is a very serious matter, and in the case of parties who own significant assets, divorce strategies can be highly complex and challenging. The Reynolds Law Firm, LLC uses its years of experience to develop a strategic approach to your divorce all in an effort to maximize your financial settlement (or award), to obtain a favorable parenting plan and achieve the other goals set by the client.
What can I do to protect myself if I’m considering a divorce?
The best defense is often a good offense. Thus, a little pre-divorce planning can go a long way towards making the divorce itself run more smoothly as well as providing you with additional protection. Doing your own homework can also save you money in legal fees. Here are some suggestions:
MAIL: Review all mail and make a list of the sender and return address. It is very important to know the address of stockbrokers, insurance companies, credit issuers, banks, and revenue properties. Keep a copy of these documents for future reference.
PERSONAL MATTERS: Have your mail sent to an address other than the Marital Home for your privacy. For example, a post office box or home of a close friend or relative. File a change of address notice with the post office.
FAMILY FINANCES: Review all monthly bank statements, brokerage statements, credit card statements, and other sources of income. Keep copies of these documents.
TAX RETURNS: Review all tax returns that have been filed by you and your spouse. Make complete copies of tax returns for the three (3) years.
SAFETY DEPOSIT BOXES: Inventory and review the contents of any safety deposit box. List the contents including cash and jewelry. Be sure that all safe deposit boxes are in joint names. Take photographs of any valuable items contained within the safety deposit box.
BUSINESS INTERESTS: Be familiar with your spouse’s business interests. Become involved and be aware of financial information regarding the business by getting full information on the business, including bank documents, loan applications, corporate tax returns and financial statements.
MARITAL ASSETS: Do not transfer, sign, or make a gift of marital assets in joint names. You may wish to cancel credit cards to avoid charges by your spouse.
PENSION PLANS: Obtain copies of your pension plan and your spouse’s also with any yearly statements and determine when they vest and benefits become payable, ask for the plan booklets and latest contribution statements.
WILLS AND TRUSTS: Obtain copies of any wills or trust agreements and be involved in any estate planning.
LOANS: Review and make copies of all loan documents, mortgage applications, and financial statements.
SIGNATURE: Do not sign any financial statements if blank.
SAVINGS AND PERSONAL FINANCES: Separation generally causes immediate economic hardship. Put away cash or keep money in traveler’s checks in order to be able to purchase personal necessities.
INDEBTEDNESS: Do not create any additional debts and make no large purchases such as a new boat or car. Prepare a complete list of all debts or obligations including credit cards, notes, mortgages, etc. Identify each debt, when it was incurred and the reason for the debt.
ASSETS: Prepare a complete list of all assets in your name and your spouse’s. Include whether the assets are held individually or jointly and the source of the assets, whether inherited, gifted, or in the name of a third party on your behalf. It is important to determine whether the assets were acquired prior to or during the marriage. Make copies of any documents which show the details and values of all assets and debts. All of this will be used to compile an asset and debt statement by your attorney.
INHERITANCES AND GIFTS: Keep all inheritances and gifts separate from the marital estate. Do not jointly title or co-mingle any inheritance or gift with your spouse and do not use proceeds to pay for family expenses or purchases or to pay down debts.
EMPLOYMENT: Do not quit work if you are employed. It is important to secure your future financial independence and earn enough to maintain assets such as your home and car.
RESIDENCE: Do not move out of the family residence without first discussing it with your lawyer.
What type of custody plan does the court consider?
Child custody refers to the rights and obligations between parents, regarding their children, after a divorce, legal separation, or paternity decree. There are two types of custody issues to be determined in any given case. The court must make a determination regarding the children’s legal custody. Legal Custody refers to a parent’s decision-making rights regarding a child’s health, education, and welfare. The court generally prefers theparents to have joint legal custody of the child, but in certain circumstances a sole legal custodian will be appointed. Next, the court must make a determination regarding physical placement of the children. Physical custody refers to the amount of time each parent has the minor children in their actual care. In a joint physical custody plan both parents have substantial time with the children. The ultimate decision in a particular case is based upon a number of factors, including but not limited to: the child’s wishes; the parents’ wishes; each parent’s historical parenting roles; home environment; history of any abuse/neglect; and other relevant issues affecting the children’s best interests.
Can I modify the court’s original judgment?
Either party is free to seek a modification of the court’s prior decree as it relates to issues of child custody, visitation, child support or spousal support. A party seeking to modify a decree must show a substantial and continuing change of circumstances. Those circumstances may include dramatic changes in income, relocation to another state, or problems relating to the proper care of the minor children.
Can I get an order for child custody or support if I was never married to the other parent?
When a child is born out-of-wedlock, the father of the child does not have any legal rights or responsibilities until the father’s paternity has been formally established by judicial decree. The father, mother, or a third-party on behalf of the child, can seek a declaration of paternity to legally establish a parent-child relationship with the father. Once this relationship is established the court will then be able to enter orders pertaining to child custody, visitation and support.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
In Missouri there is a minimum waiting period of 30 days from the date the other party is served before the Court can grant the parties a divorce. In Kansas the waiting period is 60 days. However, as a practical matter if your case is uncontested then it normally takes approximately 75 to 90 days to obtain a final order. In the event that your case is contested the average length of time to obtain a trial date is typically 6 to 12 months. The length of a contested case varies greatly depending on the complexity of the case and the issues that are contested.
How much is child support?
In all cases, the amount of child support is calculated on the basis of child support guidelines, which determine the presumed amount of support to be paid by the non-custodial parent. The amount of support is based on a mathematical formula that takes into account a number of factors, such as: each parents’ gross income; other support paid in other non-related cases; other children not involved in this action that are in a parents’ primary custody; etc. In addition to a basic amount of child support, the court can also order the parents to share the cost of such additional expenses as day-care, medical and dental expenses, educational expenses and extracurricular activities. In Missouri child support is generally paid until a child is 18 years old, although the payments can continue beyond the age of 18 if a child remains dependent because of illness, disability or the pursuit of post-secondary education. If the child pursues a post-secondary education support can continue up to age 22 so long as the child meets all the eligibility requirements. In Kansas child support is generally paid until a child is 18 years old, although the payments can continue beyond the age of 18 if a child remains dependent because of illness or upon the agreement of the parties.
When is spousal support payments (a/k/a maintenance or alimony) awarded?
Spousal support can be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis. Support may be ordered in the form of a lump sum payment, although most often it is a monthly amount. There are no guidelines setting out the amount or duration of support. The Courts determine each case on its own particular facts and with reference to the statutory objectives for that particular state. In general the court will grant spousal support when it finds that the requesting spouse: (1) Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him/her, to provide for his/her reasonable needs; and (2) Is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.
We Are Full-Service Family Attorneys
Whether your pressing legal need involves any of the above, perhaps an adoption issue we can help resolve, or should paternity need to be determined, you will receive our full attention and regular updates on developments in your case.
We’re also available, at your request, to attempt to settle issues via collaborative family law, a kind of mediation in which clients and their representatives discuss and negotiate privately, away from the courtroom.
We’re Here For You
We’re proud of the wide range of legal services we offer, and the lasting relationships we’ve built with clients from all walks of life. Contact us today to arrange an initial consultation. Whether representing a business client or an individual getting a divorce, we’ve proven that we can handle your pressing legal needs.
The Reynolds Law Firm, LLC
Belletower Office Building
4700 Belleview, Suite 404
Kansas City, MO 64112
Phone: (816) 531-6000
Fax: (816) 531-3939