Kansas City Lawyer
 
Kansas City Divorce Attorney  
Law Offices of
Mark A. Wortman
9229 Ward Parkway
Suite 255
Kansas City
Missouri 64114
Tel (816) 523-6100
Fax (816) 523-6106
Office Information
 

Kansas City Divorce Lawyer

Our law firm offers effective representation to divorcing spouses in the Kansas City Missouri area. Divorce cases can range from an uncontested matter where the parties agree on a settlement of the issues, to fully contested divorce litigation, including disputes regarding parenting time with children (custody and visitation), child support, spousal maintenance, spousal misconduct, temporary and pendent elite orders, attorney fees, and character and division of property - including real property, business interests, retirement plans, military pensions and benefits, personal property.

Attorney Mark A. Wortman Answers Your Kansas City Questions About Divorce

Divorce Testimonial:

"I don't even know where to begin to say how incredible Mark is.  After going through a very lengthy divorce litigation with another attorney, I never thought I would like or trust any attorney every again. That was before I knew Mark. I found him on a referral and I can't say enough about how happy I am with him.  He was very good to work with and I truly feel like he cared. I'm sure he is very busy and has many clients, and even with his case load, he always made time for me, always returned calls and emails in a timely manner, and always stayed on top of my case.  My case was very complicated and ended up in the big court...a federal trial in which mark was AMAZING and won the case for me hands down in every way!! When the judge rendered his verdict he literally repeated Mark word for word and mirrored every single point he made showing everyone in the courtroom that Mark knew exactly what he was doing. He truly made my life better. I really can't say enough about his attitude, knowledge, and his ability to perform in the courtroom. He is truly top notch and I would never consider using anyone else and finally feel a sense of comfort knowing that whatever my ex-wife tries to pull again in the future, Mark will be on my side."  -Ron H

The selection of a Kansas City divorce lawyer is a critical one, as the attorney representing the spouse can either make or break the case. Our law firm is not only thoroughly knowledgeable in Missouri divorce law, but we are compassionate in our representation and experienced in dealing with the needs of our clients. We care about our clients and truly desire to bring a successful result in every case we handle.

Below we have provided some general information on Missouri divorce law. Please feel free to research our website and visit our Kansas City Missouri divorce blog. Please note however that this information is for your general information only, and is no substitute for the expertise of an experienced Missouri divorce attorney.

Missouri Divorce Information

Grounds for Divorce

In Missouri, it is not necessary to show that one of the parties is at fault in the decline of the marriage. The court must only find that there is a breakdown in the essential objects and goals of the marriage, and that there is no likelihood of saving the marriage. If the parties agree to the breakdown of the marriage, further evidence is not generally required. However, if one of the parties to the divorce alleges that there is no irretrievable breakdown, the court may consider all relevant factors, including the circumstances that gave rise to the filing of the petition and the prospect of reconciliation. For more information see RSMo section 452.320.2(1).

Although it is not necessary to show fault of one of the parties, the court still may consider such evidence in the property division.

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Jurisdiction and Venue

In order to file for divorce in Missouri, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of the state for at least 90 days. The divorce petition is filed in the Circuit Court in the county in which the person filing, the Petitioner, resides.

However, if you have children, the Missouri Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act may come into play affecting whether or not the Court will be able to assume jurisdiction over the children. Generally, the children must have (a) resided in Missouri for 6 months, (b) the child and at least one of the litigants must have significant connections and substantial evidence concerning the child’s present or future care, (c) the child is physically present and requires emergency protection, OR (d) it is in the best interest of the child to assume jurisdiction because no other state could or would under any other grounds.

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Waiting Period

The petition for divorce (dissolution) must be on file for at least 30 days before the Court can dissolve the Marriage.

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Service of Process

In order for the non-filing party, called the Respondent, to be brought into the jurisdiction of the Court, copies of the Petition and a summons must be delivered to them properly. This usually means a Missouri county sheriff or court authorized process server will “serve” the divorce papers on the respondent. This may take 30 days or more, depending on the difficulty in locating the party. It is also possible for the Respondent to consent to jurisdiction and waive formal service, if a proper form is signed, verified, and filed with the court.

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Time to Respond and Default

Once the divorce petition is filed and properly served, the Respondent will have 30 days to respond to the Petition. The response must conform to Missouri law and properly filed in Court. Failure to do so will result in the Respondent being held in default, which means that the Petitioner could proceed without the Court considering any evidence from the Respondent. The Court will often award the Petitioner the relief that he/she requests in their Petition, so it is critical that if a party is served with a Petition to retain an attorney or otherwise respond in Court.

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Discovery Process

After a Petition for divorce and a Response have been filed, the parties will usually exchange “discovery”. This is an information gathering process where each party will gather information from the other in preparation for trial. In a divorce case, Information is usually obtained by written interrogatories, requests for documents, oral examination (deposition), requests for admissions, and physical or mental examinations. This process will enable the parties and their attorneys to make fully informed settlement negotiations and will assist the Court in determining the facts of the case in the event of trial.

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Legal Separation

Although it is not required for parties to separate upon divorce, that is usually the case. It is also possible to obtain a Legal Separation prior to, or as an alternative to, divorce. In a legal separation, the parties remain legally married, but are separated, with the terms and conditions of the separation approved and ordered by the Court. The parties may make, or the Court may order, provisions regarding the division of property, the provision of maintenance, and if children are involved, the custody, visitation, and support arrangements. The proceeding is very similar to a divorce, and the parties remain legally married. A decree of legal separation may subsequently be converted into a divorce decree by motion of either party.

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Annulment

Unlike divorce, which dissolves valid marriages, annulment ends the marital relationship when the marriage was never legally valid to begin with. The grounds for annulment include when spouses are relatives, lack of capacity to marry, fraud, lack of assent, impotency, duress, spouse under age, criminal conviction precluding marriage, failure con consummate, and bigamy. Note that a marriage cannot be annulled simply because it is of short duration. See Kansas City Annulment Lawyer

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Mediation

After a case for divorce (dissolution of marriage) is filed, a judge may deem it appropriate to, or the parties may voluntarily agree to, use mediation as an attempt to resolve the issues in the case without the time and expense of trial. A mediator may be agreed upon or court appointed, and will act as a neutral party helping the parties to agree on terms such as property division, custody, visitation, child support, and alimony, with minimal or no expense. Any statements or agreements made at mediation are not admissible if the divorce case goes to trial, but parties often times use the agreements at mediation to formulate a separation agreement, or at least narrow the issues for trial.

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Temporary Orders

In some circumstances, it may be possible for a party to get a temporary order from the Court. These can be ex parte orders for protection from the other spouse in situations of domestic violence, or they can be orders that last for the duration of the divorce proceeding. These types of orders can include orders for child support, custody, visitation, maintenance, or orders restraining the use, disposition, or destruction of marital assets. As divorce proceedings can take several months, a party would want to consider this type of order if immediate court involvement would be required.

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Property Division

Missouri is not a community property state. Rather, Property Division Missouri divorce law categorizes property into “Marital” and “Non-Marital.” Marital property is considered to be all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, unless the property is acquired in a specific manner described below.

Non-marital property includes property acquired by gift, will, or descent; property acquired in exchange for property acquired by gift, will, or descent; property acquired after legal separation; property excluded by a valid prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement; and increases in value of non-marital property described above unless the increase is with marital assets.

After the Court has determined the character of the property, the Court must then set aside to each spouse their non-marital property. The marital property is then divided as the court deems equitable, after consideration of the economic circumstances of the parties, contributions to the acquisition of the marital property, the value of each party’s non-marital property, conduct during the marriage, and the custodial arrangements of the children. For more information, visit our Property Division page.

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Property Settlement Agreements

Missouri divorce law specifically authorizes settlement agreements. If the parties can agree on the terms of the property division, and the court finds the agreement not to be unconscionable, the Court will approve the agreement and incorporate it into the final Decree.

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Maintenance (Alimony)

Maintenance, sometimes known as alimony, is support for the former spouse. Maintenance can be granted to either spouse, but only if the court finds that the spouse seeking maintenance (1) lacks sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs, (2) and is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment. Note that a wife is no longer entitled to maintenance as a form of damages as a result of losing the support of her husband.

The duration of the award can be temporary, such as for a period of months or years; rehabilitative, such as while the former spouse attends school or training; or permanent. The amount of the award is determined by the Court after consideration of:

(1) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian;

(2) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;

(3) The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;

(4) The standard of living established during the marriage;

(5) The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to him and the separate property of each party;

(6) The duration of the marriage;

(7) The age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(8) The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(9) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and

(10) Any other relevant factors.

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Child Custody and Visitation

When a Petition for Divorce is filed, the children come under the immediate jurisdiction of the Court for the determination of child custody and visitation arrangements. Thereafter, neither party may remove the children for a period of more than 90 days nor remove them from the care and custody of the party who has custody when the action is filed.

There are 4 different categories of child custody arrangements: sole legal custody, sole physical custody, joint legal custody, and joint physical custody. Note that there is no such thing in Missouri divorce law as a “full custody” arrangement or “standard visitation.” The specific schedule of visitation and terms for each parenting plan vary from case to case, and depend on each family’s particular situation.

Missouri courts strongly prefer Joint legal and physical custody arrangements over sole custody arrangements, provided that the best interests and welfare of the child are served. Joint legal custody means that the parents share equally in all of the decision making rights and responsibilities, including the child’s upbringing, education, health care, religious training, discipline, etc. Alternatively, in a sole legal custody arrangement, a single divorcing parent is awarded legal custody, and they may unilaterally make these decisions. In a joint physical custody arrangement, each of the parents have physical parenting time with the children and share time in accordance with a written schedule (sometimes known as “visitation”). Sole physical custody means that the child will reside with only one parent, and will have limited or no physical contact with the other parent

Visit Kansas City Missouri Child Custody

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Agreements as to Custody

At any stage of the divorce proceeding, the parents may enter into a written parenting plan, which will detail the terms of the custody, support, and visitation arrangement. However, before approving such an arrangement, the court must consider:

(1) The wishes of the child's parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;

(2) The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;

(3) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;

(4) Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;

(5) The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community;

(6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved. If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;

(7) The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and

(8) The wishes of a child as to the child's custodian.

Any parenting plan must be found to be in the best interests of the children, and any and all factors will be considered.

A typical parenting plan will provide one parent having primary custody and the other parent will have visitation every other weekend, one or two evenings during the week, alternating holidays, and spring and summer vacations. Note however that each family is different, and each plan should be specifically tailored and crafted to the family’s particular situation, and should serve the child’s best interest.

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Child Support

In a Missouri divorce, the court may order one or both or the parents owing a duty of support to a child to pay for their support. The amount of child support is calculated by the use of a formula called the Form 14, and the primary factors that are considered are the number of children and the gross incomes of the parties before taxes and deductions. Other factors include daycare costs, other children in a parent’s custody, health insurance costs, educational costs, extraordinary costs, periods of overnight visitation with a non-custodial parent, and maintenance paid or received.

The Form 14 child support calculation is usually the amount that the court will order, unless after consideration of other factors or by agreement of the parties the amount is found to be unjust and inappropriate. Visit Kansas City Missouri Child Support for more detailed information.

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Duration of Support

Generally, child support will continue until the child reaches the age of majority, becomes emancipated, or dies. A child reaches the age of majority when they graduate from high school or turn 18, whichever is later, unless the child is physically or mentally incapacitated. Also, if the child is attending college or similar post high school education by October 1 of the year following graduation from high school, the support obligation will continue until age 21, provided that strict requirements are met. A child becomes emancipated when they marry, enter military service, become self supporting through employment, or by parental consent.

The duty of support after a divorce continues even though the custodial parent and the child do not live in the same state as the non-residential parent. Also, child support does not automatically terminate, or abate for a period of time, because the child may be residing with the non-custodial parent, or the non-custodial parent does not exercise or is denied visitation. However, after a hearing, the court may abate child support payments in whole or in part for any period of time in excess of 30 days for voluntary relinquishment of custody or denial of visitation if the obligor is current on all payments. Visit Kansas City Missouri Child Support for more detailed information.

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Payment of Support

Child payments may be made directly from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, or the Court may order that payments be made through the Family Support Center. The Court also has discretion to order the payments withheld from the obligor’s paycheck.

Modification of Decrees

Under Missouri divorce law, child support, custody, and visitation are always modifiable, even if the decree states otherwise. A party must show a change of circumstances to support a modification of child support, and a modification of custody or visitation must be in the best interests of the child.

When seeking to modify child support, one of the most pertinent factors is a change in the financial condition of the parties. The change must be “substantial and continuing”, and must not be of a temporary nature. A 20% change in income of a party will meet the standard for a modification provided that the Form 14 amount was entered in the original divorce decree. The Court can also look to the financial needs of the spouse and of the children, the emancipation of the children, and the death of a parent obligated to pay.

When seeking to modify custody and visitation arrangements, there must be a continuing and substantial change in circumstances, the changes must make the prior decree unreasonable, and the modification must be in the best interests of the child. In addition, the Court must consider:

(1) The wishes of the child's parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;

(2) The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;

(3) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;

(4) Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;

(5) The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community;

(6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved. If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;

(7) The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and

(8) The wishes of a child as to the child's custodian.

Finally, Missouri courts permit parties to enter into agreements to modify. Any agreement involving custody, visitation, or support must be found to be in the best interests of the child. Visit Child Support

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The choice of a divorce attorney is a critical one. Mark A. Wortman is an experienced Kansas City divorce lawyer practicing in Jackson county Kansas City, Jackson County Independence, Platte county – Platte City, Clay county-Liberty, Cass County – Harrisonville, and surrounding areas. Call our Kansas City law firm at 816-523-6100 to speak to a divorce attorney today.

 

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