Going through a divorce can be very stressful. Emotions run high and there are many difficult decisions to contend with. The outcome of a divorce proceeding has long-lasting ramifications that can affect the rest of your life, as well as the lives of your family. At West County Family Law, our attorneys understand that you are going through a difficult transition and we know you may have many questions and concerns. With years of experience handling divorce cases in the St. Louis area, attorneys Case & Rajnoha will provide you with the legal guidance you need to make informed decisions and the legal representation necessary to ensure that your interests are properly protected.

In Missouri, couples can either file for a divorce or a legal separation. Determining which type is right for you will be based on individual factors, such as your relationship with your spouse, the structure of your assets (property) and liabilities (debts), how well you and your spouse are able to communicate with each among other factors. The difference between a divorce and legal separation is that on the petition when filing for divorce you must allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. On a petition for a legal separation you do not allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken therefor can be preserved. For more information on the difference between the two proceedings call West County Family Law and talk with one of our attorneys.

Understanding the Process of a Dissolution

Step 1: File a Petition and Financials

A Petition is filed with the court asking a Judge to dissolve your marriage. From that point on, this person will be referred to as the "Petitioner".

The Petition can also ask for, custody of children, child support, and spousal support (maintenance). Along with your Petition, you are required to file two types of financial statements: an Income and Expense Statement and a Property Statement. These documents allow the court to review the income of each party, determine what assets and debt were acquired during the marriage, and the amount and type of expenses each party anticipates after the divorce.

Step 2: Service of a Summons

Service is what is required by law to "notify", or give notice to the other party (person), letting them know there is a proceeding established in the court that requires their response. This person will further be known as the "Respondent". The "return" of service establishes due process, meaning, the court is aware that the other party has been notified.

Service is achieved many ways. The four most typical are: Service by the Sheriff, Service by help of a "Special Process Server", "Voluntary Entry of Appearance with a Waiver of Service" by the Respondent, and Acceptance of Service by an attorney on your behalf.

Step 3: Legal Response from the " Respondent"

This is a time sensitive period regulated by court rules that allows the Respondent to "Answer" the Petition by admitting or denying the claims within your petition. The Respondent will most often file a counter Petition. Failure to "Answer" a Petition or a Counter Petition within 30 days could result in a "Default Judgment", meaning, the other person may receive the relief they requested in their Petition.

Step 4: Discovery and Pretrial Motions

This is the time when your attorney will develop your case to support your requests or arguments to the other side. This development happens through a process called "Discovery". Discovery allows your attorney to acquire information from the other party or other sources regarding the case. This information can be acquired many ways. "Interrogatories" are a set of written questions that are given to the other party requiring answers given under oath by an affidavit that is notarized. "Depositions" are a way that attorneys can ask direct questions to the other party. This will be at a pre-set location and in the presence of a court reporter. The other party is allowed to have their attorney present at this time. An attorney can also request for "Production of Documents or Records". This is achieved by filing a request with the court or sending a "Subpoena" to the curator of records at the desired organization, such as a bank or cell phone provider. Some courts have what is called a "Mandatory Document Exchange". This requires each party to provide the other with current and up to date pay stubs, bank statements, retirement plans, investments, tax returns, etc. This is also the time that values of property or other assets are established.

This process can be very time consuming. In some instances, custody issues and/or financial support is needed by one of the parties prior to the matter concluding. Your attorney can file a "Pendente Lite Motion", also called a "PDL Motion" asking for the court to order temporary custody arrangements or financial support to one of the parties until the final order is entered.

Step 5: Settlement Conference

Settlement conferences are set by the court meetings between the two attorneys and the Judge. Most often you are required to attend also. These conferences allow each attorney to share with the Judge their client's desires, needs, and concerns. This is also the time when a Judge can give some insight to how likely they are or not to grant a request from either party or instruct the parties to comply with a court order. In a contested divorce there may be several "Settlement Conferences" scheduled in preparation for a Trial.

Step 6: Trial or Agreement

At any point in time during the proceedings, the parties can enter into a written agreement called a "Settlement Agreement". Through compromise by each side, the parties can avoid a trial. This non-contested option most often does not require any further court appearances or hearings. The matter is submitted to the Judge by sworn affidavits.

If the case goes to Trial, your attorney will put on evidence by way of direct testimony or exhibit. Each side will have the opportunity to ask questions to the other party and/or any experts included. This is a grueling and daunting experience for everyone involved and is extremely costly. This option should be avoided if at all possible.

Step 7: Judgment (Divorce Decree)

A Judgment, also called a Divorce Decree, is the signed court order from the judge that declares your marriage to be dissolved and also spells out how you and your ex-spouse will move forward separately. If children are involved, you will find decisions made by the court determining child custody and visitation. These orders will be further defined in more detail in an incorporated Parenting Plan. Any financial obligation or award, such as child support or maintenance, is spelled out in detail defining the amount, frequency, and duration of payment. All marital property or debt will be divided in a manner that is equitable to both spouses.

If you are looking for a less expensive and less traumatic way to end your marriage through divorce, it is best to try to agree to as many issues as possible in advance so that negotiations do not have to be carried on by opposing divorce attorneys. The more both parties can work out their differences on their own, the less resulting time and money (not to mention aggravation) will be expended.

Essential Facts About Divorce Everyone Should Know

· One of the parties must be a Missouri resident for at least 90 days before filing a divorce petition.

· Missouri is a modified no-fault state, meaning that the party filing for divorce is not required to declare grounds in the petition.

· There is a 30-day waiting period following the filing of the petition before the divorce can be granted.

· A divorce cannot be finalized if the wife is pregnant.

· In Missouri, all parents of minor children seeking divorce must attend a parenting class.

There is no denying that the divorce process can be challenging, painful and difficult, but the understanding that you are not alone and that you have experienced representation of attorneys Case & Rajnoha to guide your decisions and protect your best interests is an important step in getting back on track to a brighter future.

If you are considering initiating a divorce or have already been served with divorce papers, call West County Family at 636-861-1111. We can provide you with solid legal guidance, answer the many questions you may have, and schedule a divorce consultation during which you can further discuss the unique aspects of your case.

What are some of the decisions that need to be made during divorce?

When a couple splits up, many decisions need to be made related to the distribution of assets, liabilities and property. Spousal support, or alimony, is another aspect of the process that needs to be agreed upon. If children are involved, the situation becomes more complicated, since issues such as time-sharing (child custody and visitation) and child support must be considered. Aside from day to day finances for dependent children, considerations related to health insurance, life insurance, college education funding and other financial matters must be agreed upon. Every divorce case is unique and the types of considerations that need to be made in each case will differ depending on circumstances.

Division of Property

Division of property is often the most troublesome issue in a divorce proceeding. One of the questions almost always asked is who gets to keep the (insert valuable or sentimental item here)? Property division is an important consideration in every divorce and it takes an experienced attorney to assist you during this process. The court has the responsibility to fairly distribute the marital and non-marital property of the spouses. Marital property is generally any items acquired during the marriage. On the other hand, non-marital property is pretty much everything that you owned before you got married. Keep in mind that a division of property does not necessarily have to be "equal". Courts often make what may at first seem like an unequal distribution based upon the specific circumstances of the marriage. Several factors are taken into account here. Courts generally consider each spouse's contributions to the marriage, both monetary and non-monetary. The ultimate goal is to arrive at a fair solution which takes into account the whole of the marriage.

Free Divorce Phone Consultation - 636-861-1111

We offer free, no-obligation divorce phone consultations, providing you with the opportunity to ask questions and obtain more information. This allows you to enter into the divorce process with necessary knowledge that can affect your future. This helps us determine how we can best meet your needs.

At the West County Family Law, we work with either parent involved in divorce proceedings or other issues in child custody and support, such as paternity. Our knowledgeable attorneys Case & Rajnoha will help identify your rights and negotiate a parenting plan that fits your individual circumstance.

Experienced Service and Legal Counsel

Our goal at West County Family Law is to provide the highest quality of experience, service and legal counsel. With more than 65 years of experience, attorneys Case & Rajnoha are capable of handling many types of legal matters. Founded in 1975, West County Family Law's trademark has been prompt, personal attention. Our success has been our dedication to our clients and protecting their best interests and rights. Our clients deserve to be well-represented, with quality legal services provided by a dedicated team of attorneys and paralegals. We pride ourselves in our personal service by making sure we are available for our client throughout the legal process.

We're Here to Help You

We seek to help you through the legal problem confronting you. The first step is an easy one: call us for a free telephone consultation at (636) 861-1111 to speak with our Ballwin family and criminal law attorneys. You can also contact us online.

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West County Family Law is located in Ballwin, Missouri, and serves the cities of St. Louis, Chesterfield, Fenton, Valley Park, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Webster Groves, Manchester, Eureka, Hillsboro, Maryland Heights, Town and Country, Ellisville, Frontenac, Wildwood, Ladue and Crestwood. We also serve other communities in St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, West County and South County.