Most of the time you do not “win” your case. As a St. Louis divorce attorney, we always preach that a victory is when you minimize the loss.
It is a rare case where you get everything you want, as Missouri Courts are supposed to have the outcome be “fair, just, and equitable”.
This does not necessarily mean even or equal (or even fair).
When it comes to arguing about assets and debts, the Court is going to look at what is marital and what is separate.
Marital assets and debts are things and debts that were acquired during the marriage.
Separate assets and debts are things and debts that were there prior to the marriage or came to you during the marriage via an inheritance (and even then, it cannot have been co-mingled most of the time). Some separate assets have a marital aspect to them (example: you had a house before marriage, kept it during the marriage and marital funds were used to pay the bills and fix it up).
You will need to work with your attorney to identify what is marital, what is separate, and what is a little of both. An example is when you had a retirement account prior to the marriage and continued to contribute to it during the marriage.
Some of the most important documents you are going to be submitting are your financial statements. They are called several things throughout the state, but they are basically the same thing: the Statement of Income and Expense, and the Statement of Property.
Take your time filling these out completely and put in correct and accurate information. Rushing through them or failing to list something will come back to haunt you at trial, or worse, reopen the case for failing to disclose something (especially in divorce cases).
It is my strong advice that you not try to hide anything. It happens all of the time, but when you get caught, there are serious repercussions.
You can view all Missouri Divorce Forms here
When in a custody battle, you need to work with your attorney to come up with a parenting plan that makes sense.
As a child custody attorney, a lot of people come to me demanding that they have equal time with their children, even if the time they get is not quality time, which makes no sense other than to get a small discount on child support (note: it’s not worth it).
While Missouri will usually try and make it equal time, you get to get creative when drafting your ideal parenting plan.
Asking for a plan that cuts the other parent out for no reason or puts in unnecessary limitations on them will likely go against you if the matter proceeds to trial.
If the Judge has two plans in front of them and one seems fair and the other one does not without a good explanation, the Judge will likely go for the more reasonable plan.
There is often a lot of arguing about child support, which is unnecessary a lot of the time. Missouri uses a calculation, called a Form 14 calculation when determining child support.
There are factors that can change things, such as a parent being intentionally unemployed or under-employed, that may need to be argued, but by and large, the Court will Order the Form 14 calculation unless there is a finding that the calculation is unjust or inappropriate.
Here is an in-depth article on Missouri’s Child Support Calculations: How Missouri Calculates Child Support.
The reality is that if you want to “win” your contested case, you will most likely need to have an experienced and dedicated divorce attorney fighting for you. Make sure they know the law, the players (Judge, opposing counsel, the GAL, etc.), and listen to what they have to say.
As bad of a rep that family law attorneys get (sometimes well deserved), they want to help you and do what is best.
So long as they know what they are doing, you follow their advice, and do not sabotage your own case, you may not “win”, but you will seriously minimize the loss.
Contact Haefner Law Office at (314) 200-6101, and set up your free 30-minute phone consultation with a dedicated family law attorney to discuss your case, get some guidance, and see if we are the right fit for you.
It may just be the most important call you ever make.
All we do at Haefner Law Office is family law, and we know how to protect you. You do not need to do this alone.