Should divorced parents continue to follow custody exchange schedules during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders?
Stay-at-home orders and recommendations have been implemented throughout the St. Louis area. Unless you are emergency personnel, law enforcement, health care or other essential worker, you are likely one of the people that is ordered to stay in your home.
Many of you are asking if you should continue to exchange your child as detailed in your parenting plan? With a few exceptions, the answer is Yes.
Parents are expected to follow their parenting plan during the pandemic.
Complying with your parenting plan is considered essential travel, and everyone is supposed to comply with their parenting plan schedules. Do not to look for technicalities to keep from having to abide by your parenting plan. I think it is worth repeating: Do not use the pandemic to try and find ways to limit the other parent’s parenting time. Judges will likely have little tolerance for parents who try and manipulate the current crisis to take time away from the other parent or otherwise cause trouble.
When might it be appropriate during the pandemic to deviate from your parenting plan?
With that said, there are some circumstances that may indicate that you should deviate from your current plan. This is new territory for everyone. Under existing Missouri law, I expect judges to be looking for parents to continue to support one another as parents and make good choices to keep children and each other safe.
1. A Parent has Been Traveling
If a parent has been traveling, that parent should wait 14 days after returning to resume parenting-time. Children thrive on frequent, meaningful connections with both parents. If a parent must be physically absent, try arranging some virtual visits like Zoom, Skype, Facebook chat or any of the other video chat options that work for you both. And, of course, don’t forget that a plain old phone call is always an option too. Do what you can to be supportive of one another.
2. Parent is Sick with Flu-like Symptoms
If the other parent is sick with flu like symptoms, then it is prudent not to exchange until a COVID test comes back negative or some other “ok” has been received from the doctor. Don’t overreact. A single sneeze or cough is not enough. Again, parents behaving like spiteful opportunists have far more to lose than gain by causing unnecessary drama.
3. Exchange Location is Unsafe or Closed
What if your exchange location is unavailable or ill advised? Communicate with the other parent to come up with ideas. Perhaps you can just meet outside, but not to go in. You could do side by side car exchanges in front of your normal place. If you are too scared to exchange so close or without supervision (domestic violence cases) then try curbside exchanges. One parent drives up and does not exit the car while the other parent sends the children out.
There are, of course, other exceptions that may arise. The rule is still the same: parenting together is always better for your child than looking for ways to shut the other out. Follow your parenting plan, use common sense and compassion. If ever there was a time to be unified as a parenting unit, this is it.
If you have questions about your parenting plan during the outbreak, contact me.
Many spouses agree that they want to end their marriage with as little drama as possible and aim to file their divorce as an uncontested case. Some spouses are looking for a fast divorce, other just want to keep their affairs private and not set foot in a courthouse. Maybe both partners are committed to an amicable split. Whatever the reasons may be, a successful uncontested divorce requires the spouses to carefully look at all the things that need to be decided and come to an agreement. This can happen through direct, one-on-one conversation or with the help of a family mediator or attorney.
To help couples who really want to try to talk through their divorce issues, I have created a checklist and worksheet. These tools are designed to help spouses think through all of the topics that will need to be addressed in their divorce if they move forward. Too often, spouses think they have reached a quick agreement, only to be frustrated later when things fall apart because something important was missed.
As you work through the list, keep in mind that even if you are not able to reach an agreement, talking about all of these items will help you identify where you are stuck and where you agree, which brings you one step closer to the resolution of your marriage. If you have lots of questions as you work through this, that is a good sign you could use the help of a family attorney or family mediator. Call or contact me for a free consultation.
When the parties in a divorce case have reached an agreement on how to end their marriage, a marital settlement agreement is drafted that reflects those terms along with a proposed judgement and parenting plan for the court to review and approve.
In some cases, particularly if neither party is represented by an attorney, the Court will conduct a brief hearing to review the settlement and enter judgment.
The hearing is typically brief, less than a half an hour. Both parties are sworn in and then asked to confirm the terms of their agreement and that they would like the judge to enter the judgement and approve the settlement agreement.
One advantage of hiring an uncontested divorce attorney, is that most courts will skip the settlement hearing as long as at least one party is represented and both parties submit an affidavit to the court asking for the judge to conclude the case.
When couples are considering ending their marriage, one of the questions that often comes up is how long will the divorce take? A related question is, how fast can I get divorced in Missouri?
The minimum amount of time it takes to get divorced in Missouri is 30 days. Missouri law requires that at least one party has been a resident of Missouri for 90 days, and 30 days must pass between the filing of the divorce petition and final judgment. This is essentially a cooling off period to prevent rash decisions.
As we all know, what the rule says and what actually happens can be two different things. Can you get divorced faster than 30 days in Missouri? No. Can it take longer than 30 days? Absolutely. Many cases take 6 months to a year, and some even longer. How quickly or slowly your divorce happens depends on a few things.
Are there contested issues in the case?
The absolute fastest way to get divorced is if the parties agree to the terms of the divorce. This is commonly referred to as an “Uncontested Divorce,” (although the most accurate way to describe it is actually a divorce by agreement). In an uncontested divorce, the parties work out the terms of their agreement either by talking to each other directly or with the help of a marriage and family therapist, attorney or family mediator. The key is to fully resolve the issues in detail so that a final settlement agreement is signed and ready to file from the same moment the divorce is filed with the court. Having all your issues negotiated and agreed on before the case is filed means that your divorce can be signed by a judge as soon as the 30 has passed. If your case is filed as a contested matter, it can take between 6 months and a year or more to work through the litigation process.
Do you have the right attorney helping you?
Not all family attorneys practice the same way. How quickly or slowly your attorney works sometimes is a big factor in how long your case will take. That said, I often hear stories about how slow their attorney is even when the attorney is working hard on the case. It is a little like waiting for food when you can’t see the kitchen. A lot of what attorneys do is behind the scenes. When in doubt, talk to your attorney.
What court and judge is your case in front of?
Some courts and judges simply operate faster than others. A seasoned family attorney will know how the courts in your area operate so you can be realistic. This is one reason (of many) it is a good idea to hire an attorney to assist you, even with a simple uncontested case.
Are there issues that require hearings along the way?
Some cases unfold in a straightforward way with minimal discovery. Other may have issues that need court attention before final judgment. Abuse, urgent financial issues, or discovery disputes are just a few. These kinds of issues are speed bumps that will slow your case’s progress. The attorneys will be working to negotiate the issues. If an agreement can’t be reached, there may need to be a hearing, which adds time.
These are just some of the factors that can influence the time it takes to conclude a divorce in Missouri. It is worthwhile to work with an divorce attorney to make sure your case goes quickly and smoothly. Call us if you need help.
A common divorce question is, “What is marital property in Missouri?” The easy answer is that anything a couple accumulates during their marriage is considered marital property. This includes both assets (stuff) and liabilities (stuff you owe). Here is the important part most people miss: it doesn’t matter who bought it, who earned the money that bought it, whose name is on the title, or whose name is on the debt. Really.
So what isn’t marital property?
Not all property is marital. The property and debts each spouse owns prior to the marriage remain separate property in most circumstances. Anything gifted to or bequeathed to (inherited by) one spouse alone is also considered separate property.
Are those labels set in stone?
No. Separate property can be converted to marital property in a variety of ways. For example, if one spouse inherited a house during the marriage, but then adds the other spouse’s name to the deed, uses marital funds to make major repairs and the mortgage payments, and the couple lives in the house, then there is a good argument that the spouse has converted the house from separate property to marital property. These circumstances are very fact specific. If you have a questionable item, you should get help from a lawyer to determine the correct classification of the property.
The cost for an uncontested divorce in Missouri can range from $600 to $1,500 and up, depending on the kind of law firm you hire and the particulars of your case.
One thing that can make a big difference is the fee structure of the firm you choose and the attorney. Traditional law firms bill hourly. Senior partners can bill at $300 an hour and beyond. If you choose a lawyer with a large hourly rate you can expect to pay more.
On the other hand, firms that specialize in uncontested divorces tend to be more efficient and can produce a high-quality product in less time for a lower flat fee.
The Emery Law Firm, LLC is able to offer extremely affordable pricing on uncontested divorces because we use modern technology to make the process efficient and smooth for our clients. Learn more here.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]
The short answer to the question “What does ‘uncontested divorce’ mean?” is that a husband and wife agree that they no longer want to be married to each other and agree on exactly how they wanted to conclude their marriage before they file any documents with the Court asking it to dissolve their marriage.
Sound simple? Well, that’s because it is. It can be a very easy way to get divorced. Uncontested divorce is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get divorced in Missouri.
Here is what needs to be decided between the divorcing spouses:
- That the marriage is irretrievably broken.
- How to divide the marital property including personal property, household goods, real property, retirement plans etc.
- Whether one or both parents will make major decisions on behalf of any children.
- A parenting schedule that lays out when each parent has custody of the children.
- If one parent will need to pay child support to the other, the amount and method of payment. (To learn how child support is calculated in Missouri, click here).
- If one spouse needs Maintenance (Alimony) and for how long.
For most couples with simple assets and no children this should be easy to negotiate if both spouses are interested in saving time and money in the divorce process.
Uncontested divorce is also a really good option for couples with children and simple assets who are willing to work together to make a parenting plan.