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Columbia, MO Divorce and Family Law Blog

How parental rights are terminated in Missouri

If a Missouri resident wishes to petition the court to have another person's parental rights terminated, a juvenile officer must be notified. The officer will look into the information provided and conduct an initial investigation. If the information does not warrant further proceedings, the individual will be notified that the petition will not be filed with the court. The person who filed then has 30 days to take further action.

If that person decides to take up the matter with a judge, that judge may decide that the information does warrant further investigation into the matter. He or she may ask that a juvenile officer investigate again or actually go through with filing the petition. The officer must generally file a petition or asked to be made a party to an already-filed petition if the child is an abandoned infant.

What a parent can do if denied visitation

27140335_S.jpgSome Missouri custodial parents might want to deny visitation to the other parent because that parent has not paid child support, because of issues with transportation or because the visitation schedule is inconvenient. They might also do so because they are concerned about the child's safety or the other parent's relationships. The child might no longer want to visit the parent.

It is important to have a legally binding custody and visitation agreement in place to protect a parent's rights. Many of these points will not be recognized by the court as valid reasons to deny visitation. For example, while there is a system that penalizes parents for not paying child support, ending visitation rights for that reason is not allowed. A parent denied visitation by the other parent should document the situation and try discussing it. It might be possible to resolve the situation by addressing the custodial parent's concerns. A parent may want to consider legal action up to and including calling the police. The parent can also file a motion with the court.

Enforcing back child support payments

67022316_S.jpgMissouri parents who are going through a divorce and requesting child support might need to file a claim to collect retroactive support. They might have to provide several pieces of evidence such as proof that they have tried to collect support and that the other parent has failed to support the child. For a father who has not paid support, the custodial parent may have to prove that he is aware of his paternity.

The noncustodial parent may then counter the claim. Ideally, this would be done with receipts to demonstrate support, but if these are unavailable, the parent might have copies of communication that show support or people who can back up the provision of support. If they have not been making regular support payments, they may have been providing other types of support such as clothing and food. A parent who has been unable to provide monetary support might be providing child care.

The QDRO and splitting retirement plans in divorce

13583508_S.jpgMissouri couples who are getting a divorce may have property they need to divide, and a retirement account might be one of those pieces of property. Before certain types of retirement accounts can be divided, a document known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order must be prepared and signed. Attorneys who are well-versed in the legal aspects of divorce might still refer people to a certified divorce financial analyst to get a better understanding of this complex document.

The QDRO can make the transfer of funds more efficient, or it can be costly and confusing. For example, with the guidance of a financial analyst, a person who gets half of a retirement fund in the amount of $1.1 million might be able to invest $1 million in a tax-free rollover and set the remainder aside for taxes and fees.

What happens to businesses in divorces?

16521898_S.jpgWhen Missouri business owners are planning to marry, there are important reasons why they might want to consider entering into prenuptial agreements with their fiances in order to protect their business interests. If couples get divorced without agreements that address how one spouse may leave their companies, they risk losing their companies all together in their divorces.

One case that has been happening in Delaware involving the translation software company TransPerfect illustrates what can happen when couples do not have agreements in place about how their business interests will be handled in the event that they divorce. After the co-owners split up, they were unable to get along well enough to manage effectively and wound up suing each other in court. The state legislature has now intervened in order to try to save the business as it employs 3,500 people.

Common falsehoods about child custody

26782866_S.jpgThere are many misconceptions about child custody of which Missouri parents should be aware. It is important that parents who have to go to court regarding child custody issues know the facts.

One common myth is that the parent who leaves has surrendered his or her child custody rights. In reality, parents in most states actually share legal and physical custody until there is a formal court order in place that indicates otherwise. If the parent has left and his or her whereabouts are unknown, the other parent would have to file for custody and wait for the outcome to be recognized as having sole legal or physical custody.

Divorce rates among individuals older than 50

58228242_S.jpgMissouri couples who are considering divorce may be interested to learn that separation rates are increasing for married adults over the age of 50. For adults over the age of 65, the divorce rates have tripled since 1990.

Adults in the 51-to-69 age group experienced unprecedented levels of divorce while they were young adults. Some analysts believe that this instability contributed to the increase in divorce for this age group, especially since many of these individuals are going through a second divorce. In 2015, 16 out of 1,000 married adults got a divorce after a second marriage while only eight out of 1,000 married adults got a divorce after a first marriage. Studies have shown that second marriages are less stable than first marriages, meaning they are less likely to survive. Furthermore, the risk of divorce is also higher if the couple has been married for a shorter period of time.

Getting a child support order in place

A Missouri mother who has a child and who is not together with the father is likely be eligible to receive child support payments. This is the case regardless of whether or not the parents were ever married. While filing for child support should be simple, there are certain steps that a mother who has custody of the child will have to follow.

First, the mother will need to contact the local Office of Child Support Enforcement. This agency can help enforce child support orders especially if the father is hesitant to make the payments. If the mother was never married to the father but knows who he is, paternity will need to be established. If the mother does not know where the father is currently located, there are agencies that can help track him down, like the Federal Parent Locator Service.

Establishing paternity when parents are unmarried

47942553_S.jpgIn Missouri, there are two ways for a father's paternity to be established if he is not married to the mother. Both parents can sign an Affidavit of Paternity, or the mother can get an order that establishes the man as the child's father. If the mother is married to someone who is not the father of the child, there are extra steps. If the husband is willing, he can sign a Husband's Denial of Paternity along with the child's mother. If the husband is unwilling or cannot be found, child support services may be able to assist the mother in obtaining an order to name the legal father.

In some cases, a mother may not be aware of the child's paternity. The mother can go through the Family Support Division to get free paternity testing through a cheek swab test.

Paternity important for the collection of child support

When unmarried women in Missouri give birth, the fathers of the children have an opportunity to affirm their paternity. They accomplish this by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity, which is often completed before a hospital discharges a newborn. A study published in the journal Human Nature, however, determined that each year, about 750,000 newborns nationwide go home without any legal documentation declaring who their fathers are. This lack of paternity might impeded efforts by government agencies to collect child support.

The study delved deeper into birth data about 5.4 million births collected by the National Center for Health Statistics and found demographic indicators that correlated with an increased likelihood of men quickly acknowledging their paternity. Women with private health insurance or a college education had fathers named in the birth records for their children more often. Additionally, women who were not teenagers or did not have medical issues or sexually transmitted diseases had paternity established for their children at a greater rate than other groups.

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