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Effective July 1, 2017, Missouri’s New Form 14 and new Child Support Guidelines took effect.  Notable changes to the previous law include:

  • Changes to the presumed amounts in the chart, especially at the lower and higher income levels
  • Changed schedule for calculating the overnight credit
  • New directions and comments for use, and new instructions for calculating support when a third party has been awarded custody
  • New method for calculating the line 5 basic support amount including a low income test
  • New Form 14

All child support orders entered after July 1, 2017 must comply with the new law, forms, and guidelines.

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Recent Case from the Court of Appeals:  States have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over their custody judgments until released by the rendering state.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act conditions authority of any State to modify another State’s custody order on whether the residences of parties or child remain in the other State, as states generally retain exclusive jurisdiction over their judgments unless the parties and the child reside elsewhere.  The state rendering the judgment must make that determination. Because there is no determination in this record by the California court either finding that it no longer has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over its custody orders or declining to exercise that jurisdiction because Missouri is more convenient, the Missouri court did not have authority to modify those custody orders under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED105083

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Recent Case:  From the Missouri Court of Appeals, Modification of Spousal Support vs. Property Division

Appellant Husband appeals the trial court’s judgment reducing, but not terminating, his maintenance obligation, retroactive to February 2015, and awarding Wife attorney’s fees.

Missouri statutes allow modification of spousal maintenance when circumstances change, the change is substantial and continuing, and the change makes the award unreasonable.  The trial court properly reduced Appellant’s maintenance obligation based on Respondent’s income and recent eligibility to receive a portion of Appellant’s social security benefits. However, the trial court properly declined to consider Respondent’s eligibility to receive pension benefits awarded in the original dissolution action because those benefits do not constitute a change of circumstances sufficient to support a motion to modify. Furthermore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it set the date of retroactive application for the modified maintenance obligation and awarded attorney’s fees to Respondent.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED103930

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From the Supreme Court of Missouri:

“It is ordered that effective July 1, 2017, Civil Procedure Form No. 14, entitled “Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet”, along with the directions, comments for use, and examples for completion thereto, by and the same are hereby repealed and a new Civil Procedure Form No. 14 entitled “Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet” along with directions, comments for use, and examples for completion thereto, are adopted in lieu thereof…”

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Recent Case from the Missouri Court of Appeals:  Parenting plans must contain holiday and vacation schedules; voluntary reduction in income does not support child support reduction

Mother appeals the trial court’s judgment of modification for a failure to properly apply the law and abusing its discretion in its judgment of modification. Mother contends, in relevant part, that: (1) the trial court erred in its modification because the parenting plan failed to include any holiday or vacation schedule for the minor children as required by statute; (2) the modification failed to properly calculate child support; and (3) the judgment failed to take into account the respondent’s voluntary reduction in income;

Holding:  Affirmed in part, Remanded in part

The trial court judgment that considered the particular needs of each child in its modification supported a parenting plan that awarded separate parenting time for each child. Missouri law adjusts the child support amount for overnight visits numbering 36 per year or more, so the trial court did not err in denying an adjustment based on 24 overnight visits per year.  In addition, voluntary reduced income caused by the dissipation of one’s own talents, in this case failure to comply with federal employee wage requirements resulting in substantial tax liability and subsequent bankruptcy filing, does not support a reduction in child support.

Missouri law requires the parenting plan to include a schedule of physical custody during enumerated holidays and vacations and omission of that schedule requires a remand back to the trial Court.

WS vs. ME

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District

WD79347

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Governor Jay Nixon signed House bill 1550 into law on July 1, 2016, which takes effect August 28, 2016.  This law has been dubbed as an equal custody law, or 50/50 custody law, but that is not an entirely accurate description.  Rather than specifically stating that custody should be equal, the bill’s wording is to “maximize” a child’s time with each parent to the “highest degree possible”, along with more stringent enforcement procedures and remedies.  The bill also bans “standard visitation” parenting plans.   The changes made by the new law are as follows:

  1. Within 120 days of August 28, 2016, Parenting plan guidelines shall be made available on the office of the state courts administrators website.
  2. When the parties have not reached an agreement on all issues relating to custody, the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law, including, but not limited to the 8 statutory factors in the current version of the statute.
  3. The Court shall not presume that a parent, solely because of his or her sex, is more qualified than the other parent to act as a joint or sole legal or physical custodian of the child.
  4. Every custody order entered after August 28, 2016, must state the following: “In the event of noncompliance with this order, the aggrieved party may file a verified motion for contempt. If custody, visitation, or third-party custody is denied or interfered with by a parent or third party without good cause, the aggrieved person may file a family access motion with the court stating the specific facts that constitute a violation of the custody provisions of the judgment of dissolution, legal separation, or judgment of paternity. The circuit clerk will provide the aggrieved party with an explanation of the procedures for filing a family access motion and a simple form for use in filing the family access motion. A family access motion does not require the assistance of legal counsel to prepare and file.”
  5. No court shall adopt any local rule, form, or practice requiring a standardized or default parenting plan for interim, temporary, or permanent orders or judgments. Notwithstanding any other provision to the contrary, a court may enter an interim order in a proceeding under this chapter, provided that the interim order shall not contain any provisions about child custody or a parenting schedule or plan without first providing the parties with notice and a hearing, unless the parties otherwise agree.
  6. The court shall consider, in a proceeding to enforce or modify a permanent custody or visitation order or judgment, a party’s violation, without good cause, of a provision of the parenting plan, for the purpose of determining that party’s ability and willingness to allow the child frequent and meaningful contact with the other party.
  7. The state courts administrator shall create a handbook or be responsible for the approval of a handbook outlining the following: Guide lines as to what is included in a parenting plan in order to maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent; and this handbook shall be readily available online and shall be served along with the Petition and summons.
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Recent Case:  LAGERS Pension present value of zero but future payment divided

Missouri Statutes require division of marital property, including local government retirement system benefits. The Circuit court treated the defined benefit pension as a future asset, requiring the beneficiary to pay the ex-spouse a fixed amount of the future payment, and assigning zero present value.  Such treatment is consistent with statutes requiring division of property and does not constitute deferred maintenance.  The nearly equal distribution of property stood on circuit court’s findings on factors set forth by statute. Misconduct that has affected the burdens within the marriage may affect the distribution of marital property but circuit court may still distribute marital property equally.

The trial court did not abuse its broad discretion in its distribution of marital property, in that the division of marital property was equitable, the order was definite and capable of enforcement, and the trial court considered the factors set forth in Section 452.330, RSMo.

Missouri Court of Appeals

Eastern District – ED102483

Filed July 19, 2016

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Recent Case:  Wife appeals Judgment of the Circuit Court modifying her spousal maintenance award and denial of attorney fees

Statutes base maintenance on, and limit it to, need, and allow modification when a substantial and continuing change in circumstances make the initial award unfair.  Such change may include involuntary retirement, on which the record supports the circuit court’s findings, with evidence that partnership agreement required retirement and that further employment would be expensive.  It may also include an increase in obligee’s resources, on which the record supports the circuit court’s findings, with evidence that obligee receives a monthly payment from obligor’s annuity and that obligee’s income is increasing.

Statutes assign authority to award attorney fees to circuit court exclusively.  Nothing entitles a party of lesser income, having sufficient resources to pay their lawyer, to an award of attorney fees.

Judgment Affirmed on other grounds

FB v. LB

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District

ED 103035

Filed May 24, 2016

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Recent Case: Missouri Court of Appeals upholds Judgment denying spousal support when sufficient property is awarded

Wife appeals from the trial court’s judgment that dissolved her marriage with Husband, divided marital property and marital debt, and denied her an award of maintenance. Wife challenges only the trial court’s denial of an award of maintenance.

Judgment Affirmed.

In an action for the dissolution of marriage, Missouri statutes allow an award of maintenance to spouse who cannot meet reasonable expenses through appropriate employment and property, including that awarded in dissolution action.

The evidence established that Wife was capable of working a full-time job and that Wife’s expenses were inflated on her income and expense statement. Further, the judgment awarded Wife her individual retirement account and half of Husband’s retirement account. Wife’s income and access to retirement account distributions combined to afford her with sufficient assets to provide for her reasonable needs so that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Wife maintenance.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District – WD78527

Filed March 15, 2016

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Recent Missouri Case:     Parent responsible for violating the court order when child refuses to visit the other parent as required in the court ordered parenting plan

Appellant D.R.P. (“Mother”) appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court of Jackson County holding her in civil contempt of the court’s judgment regarding the parenting plan for M.P.P. (“Father”) with their minor child C.P. (“Daughter”). In her sole point on appeal, Mother argues the trial court erred in finding that she willfully, intentionally, and contumaciously disobeyed the court’s judgment and parenting plan because there was not substantial evidence to support such a finding.

The trial court did not err in holding Mother in contempt of court because there is substantial evidence to support the trial court’s finding that Father made a case for civil contempt and Mother failed to establish that her failure to enforce the parenting plan was not due to her own intentional and contumacious conduct. The Judgment ordered parents to execute parenting plan including parenting time.  The record shows that, at respondent’s scheduled parenting time, appellant picked up child after school and sat silent with child in car when child refused to accompany respondent on multiple occasions.  Such conduct “undermined” the parenting plan.

JUDGMENT UPHELD

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District – WD78541

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