Divorce FAQ

What happens to you and your family is truly important and we understand how important. No one ever wants to think about having to deal with family law issues. When they do occur, it is important to seek out legal advice to help limit the damage and deal with any fallout in the best way possible.  Below are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about divorce.

Feldman Law - Divorce FAQ - Couple Tug of WarWhen To Talk To A Lawyer

If you or your spouse decide to seek a divorce, you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible, especially if you have children, own property, or have a retirement account or pension.

Why Talk To A Lawyer

It is important to talk to you a lawyer when getting a divorce so that you protect your interests.  The court will decide custody of children and divide the marital assets if you and your spouse do not reach a settlement.  You want to be part of that process so you do not end up with any less than you need or deserve. These decisions are major and require the opinion of an attorney to represent your interests.  It is not wise to have one attorney represent both husband and wife.  This scenario does not protect your rights, even if you agree on every term of the settlement.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Divorce In Missouri?

While it is understandable that you would like your divorce to move quickly, there are several factors at stake. The court has a schedule and it sets the dates of the court appearances.

First, a petition is filed with the court.  Next, the petition must be served on the opposing party. The opposing party then has thirty days from the time he or she is served to file an answer to the petition. If the parties agree on every issue of the divorce, settlement paperwork can be signed by the parties and filed with the court.

If, however, the parties are not in total agreement, the court will schedule a conference with the attorneys. The attorneys will inform the court of the issues in the case, such as custody of children, paternity of children, child support, property distribution and maintenance (formerly called “alimony”).

One of the factors that determines the length of a case is the agreement or lack of agreement between the parties. The more the parties fight and disagree about the issues involved, the longer the case takes. The court will schedule the case for trial if the case cannot be settled.

Most divorce and family law cases are resolved by settlement or trial within one year of filing the original petition.

How Much Will A Divorce Cost?

Most attorneys charge by the hour and the longer it takes to handle the case, the more expensive the case will be. It is very difficult to say how much legal representation will cost. Ideally, you and your spouse can agree on many of the issues. While you may want to “win,” that may be very costly. It is the parties who drive the attorney fees, not the attorneys.

Our firm is affordable. You should hire a lawyer that you think you can work with. There are many good lawyers in St. Louis and you can visit several before deciding which lawyer to hire. This firm gives free initial in person consultations. During the consultation, you have the chance to meet the attorney and see if he or she is the right one for you. If a lawyer promises you a result, be wary. The results of a case depend on the law and the facts. For example, there is now a presumption that parents should be awarded joint custody. Many years ago, the mother typically received sole custody and the father received reasonable visitation of the children. It is different now and if you want sole custody of your children, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to look into this issue.

Expectations And Reality

Most clients want to know how long it will take for their case to be resolved and how much it will cost.  If the parties can agree on the terms of settlement, a divorce can be resolved quickly. In Missouri, most divorce and family law cases are resolved within one year from the date of filing.

The cost of a divorce depends on several factors.  When the parties cannot agree on the issues, more time is needed to resolve the case or, if necessary, to try the case.  Other possible expenses in divorce are depositions, subpoenas, service of process, expert witnesses, custody evaluations, psychological evaluations.

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney who makes recommendations to the judge about what is in the best interests of the child. Each party is assessed the cost of the guardian ad litem, who charges by the hour. The GAL’s hourly rate is similar to the attorney rate.

Can My Spouse Prevent Me From Getting A Divorce?

No. Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you do not need any grounds to get a divorce.

If your spouse fails to respond to your divorce action, you may obtain a default judgment, which involves the opposing party failing to respond to the petition for dissolution, not appearing in court and in short, absenting himself from the whole legal process. The court can make its orders without the participation of the opposing party.

What if My Spouse And I Cannot Agree On The Terms Of The Divorce?

The court will allow parties in a lawsuit to try to settle their differences and come up with a settlement. If the parties cannot agree on all the terms of the divorce, the case must be tried and the judge will make all the decisions regarding custody of children, as well as distribution of property and debts.

It is important to know when you should settle your divorce and when you should take your case to trial. Your attorney should advise you about these alternatives. There is no set formula. Each case is different and possesses its own set of facts.

When And Why Is A Guardian Ad Litem, Or GAL, Appointed?

According to Missouri statute, there are instances in which the court is required to appoint a GAL and instances in which the court may appoint a GAL. The court must appoint a GAL if child abuse or neglect is alleged. Section 452.423.2 Revised Statutes of Missouri. Then there are instances in which in the court’s discretion, it wants a GAL appointed, for example, if one party is insisting on sole custody.

The GAL shall interview “persons having contact with or knowledge of the child.” Section 452.423.3 Revised Statutes of Missouri. This part of the statute allows the GAL to interview the child if the GAL believes that it would be helpful. The GAL will always interview the parents, sometimes other family members or person who are important to the child, such as teachers.

A GAL is paid on an hourly rate like an attorney. Many times, the cost of the GAL is split by the parties equally, although the court may reallocate those costs at the conclusion of the case. Sometimes, the incomes of the parties will determine the allocation of the GAL fees.

If necessary, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the best of interests of the children, known as a guardian ad litem (a guardian for the pending case), or GAL.  The GAL charges the parties an hourly rate similar to an attorney’s hourly rate.  The parties usually share this cost.  The law provides that if abuse of the children is alleged by a party, the court has no choice but to appoint a GAL.