Kansas City Lawyer
 
Kansas City Family Lawyer  
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 Family Lawyer

Our Kansas City family law firm offers a wide range of family law services in to clients around the country. Mark A. Wortman is a Kansas City family lawyer practicing in Kansas City, Missouri, including Jackson county Kansas City, Jackson County Independence, Cass County, Clay County, Platte County and the surrounding areas. In addition to divorce, our firm offers services for Paternity Actions, Custody and Visitation, Annulment, Legal Separation, Contempt of Court / Enforcement of Decrees Modification of Decrees, Rights of the Unwed / Cohabitation rights, Child Support Prenuptial and Post-nuptial agreements, and name changes.

Family Law Lawyer

Our Kansas City law firm is not only thoroughly knowledgeable in Missouri family law, but we are compassionate in our representation, experienced in dealing with the needs of our clients and truly desire to bring a successful result in every case we handle.

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Paternity Actions

Paternity actions are actions to determine the existence or non-existence of a father-child relationship, and may be brought at any time by a child, the natural mother, a presumed father, a man alleging himself to be the father, or the division of child support enforcement. An experienced paternity lawyer can combine the action with counts for child support, custody and visitation, past child support, and past necessary expenses for the child, as well as the consolidation, stay, or termination of administrative child support proceedings.

There are certain situations where the paternity of a man is legally presumed. Paternity is presumed if (1) the man and the child’s natural mother are or have been married to each other and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated; (2) the father and mother have attempted to marry each other but the marriage is invalid; (3) after the birth of the child the mother and the man have married or attempted to marry and the man acknowledged paternity in writing, placed his name on the birth certificate, or voluntarily promised in writing or been ordered by a court to support the child; (4) a man has acknowledged the child as his own in a written affidavit signed by the mother and filed with Vital Records; and (5) where a paternity test indicates a man is the father with a probability of 98% or higher. In a paternity action, a man may also consent to paternity with an acknowledgment of Parentage. Visit Paternity for more information or contact an experienced Kansas City paternity lawyer.

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Custody and Visitation

Custody and Visitation actions are part of actions for Dissolution of Marriage, for Declaration of Paternity, and for Modification of decrees. When a Petition for Dissolution is filed, the children come under the immediate jurisdiction of the Court. 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 family law as “full custody” or “standard visitation.” The specific schedule of visitation and terms for each parenting plan vary from case to case, and must be carefully drawn up by the custody lawyer to meet the particular needs of the family.

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 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.

Agreements as to Custody

The parents may enter into a written parenting plan, which will detail the terms of the custody, support, and visitation. 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.

Visit our custody page for more information or contact an experienced custody lawyer.

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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. Annulment is applicable to two distinct categories of challenged marriages: those marriages that are void and those marriages that are voidable.

Void marriages include common-law marriages (not recognized in Missouri), marriages where one party is under 15 years old at the time of the marriage and there was no judicial consent, marriage between related persons, a marriage where one partner lacked mental capacity to know the nature of the contract of marriage, a marriage under duress, and a same sex marriage. Note that a marriage of short duration is not grounds for an annulment in and of itself.

A voidable marriage, such as one resulting from fraud, error, duress, or other imperfect consent, is valid until the court enters a decree of annulment. See Kansas City Annulment Lawyer

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Legal Separation

Although it is not required that parties separate upon divorce, it 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, but the parties remain legally married. A decree of legal separation may subsequently be converted into a divorce decree by motion of either party. Contact experienced legal separation lawyer Mark A. Wortman.

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Contempt of Court / Enforcement of Decrees

Failure of a party to comply with an order of the court can have a number of consequences, and the party wishing to enforce a decree has various methods in which to do so. The method of enforcement depends on the nature of the court order.

Judgments for child support and maintenance are money judgments, and the same methods available to creditors against debtors apply, including levy on property and garnishment of wages and bank accounts.

Also, an action for contempt of court can be used to enforce judgments for property division, child support and maintenance (including non-money awards). In such actions, the Court may order delivery of the property or money, assess a fine, or place the contempt party in jail for a specified period of time.

An action for contempt of court may also be used to enforce a judgment for custody and visitation.

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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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Rights of the Unwed / Cohabitation rights

Parties who live together but are not married have different remedies available than those who are married. Most actions are based on contract law. The cohabitants may be able to enforce an oral or written contract, an implied contract which is inferred from the actions and conduct of the parties during the relationship, or implied-in-law contracts, which are not actual contracts but are nonetheless employed by the courts to provide relief.

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Child Support

An action for child support may be initiated in various ways. For unmarried parents, a parent may seek an administrative order from the Family Support Division for child support, or an administrative action may be commenced by the State when state benefits are being provided to the child. An action for child support may also be a part of an action for paternity or a divorce.

In a Missouri, 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.

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 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 our Kansas City Child Support for more detailed information or contact child support lawyer Mark A. Wortman.

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Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements are contracts that parties enter prior to marriage. Postnuptial agreements are contracts entered into after marriage. Usually these agreements are used to protect property from the consequences of divorce or death of a spouse. These types of agreements are becoming increasingly popular, increasingly complex, and they are scrutinized very closely by the courts. These agreements must be entered into freely, fairly, knowingly, understandingly, and in good faith and with full disclosure. It is advisable for any party wishing to enter into such an agreement to consult with a knowledgeable prenuptial attorney.

 

Related Topics:
Divorce
Divorce-Uncontested
Family & Domestic
Child Custody
Child Support
Paternity

 

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

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