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Kansas City Family Law Blog

Child custody and unfit parents

Child custody is a common point of contention between separating Missouri parents. Although one parent may deem the other unfit for child custody, courts generally prioritize the child's best interest by looking at the entire picture: a parent's financial situation and mental stability are often points of focus. However, when a parent has lost child custody in the past, or has inflicted abuse toward a child, legal action may be the next step.

In the unfortunate recent case of Savannah Leckie, an Ozark County girl murdered by her mother, child custody appeared in the wrong hands. Originally having lived most of her life with adoptive parents in Minnesota, the 16-year-old with Asperger's syndrome then went to live with her biological mother, Rebecca Ruud, in Missouri. The teenager then suffered months of torture and abuse from her mother, who used extreme methods of punishment to control the child. Ruud faces charges of first- and second-degree murder, among other crimes in relation to her daughter's abuse. 

Paternity testing and the steps at hand

92054050_S.jpgNo matter the situation, determining child custody can invite a world of stress for Missouri parents. After the obstacles of separation fade to the background, the court's decisions on parenting arrangements can create entirely new challenges. When there is uncertainty surrounding the identity of a child's biological father altogether, this stress can seem magnified.

Missouri law, like other states, requires that all parties agree to legal DNA testing, but does not require an initial DNA test. As Kctv5 News reported last year, one local father never received the paternity testing he had sought for years, only to later discover that his daughter was not biologically his own. Because his ex-partner denied his efforts to carry out testing, he paid child support dating back to the child's birth in 1988. While this was a shock to all involved, an added whirlwind was the accumulation of child support payments that amounted to $36,000 -- all of which had been garnished despite the DNA proof to Missouri Child Support enforcement. 

Do I have to pay my ex-spouse's student loans?

13044479_S.jpgIf you are one of the many people in Missouri who is facing the end of your marriage this year, you are no doubt concerned about the financial ramifications you may experience from a divorce. Many people focus on the division of assets when they first think of a property division settlement. While splitting assets is definitely a component of this, it is debts also that must be divided between spouses.

As Forbes explains, student loan debt may be one type of debt that ends up being shared by both spouses. Like other debts or assets, a determination of who will be responsible for paying student loan debt during a divorce may be influenced by many factors. One of these factors is likely to be whether or not the spouse who took out the loans used them solely for tuition and potentially books or other school fees or if the money was also used to pay for basic living expenses.

QDROs and divorce decrees

10180323_S.jpgDivorcing spouses in Missouri can find many elements of getting divorced difficult to accept, including the financial blow that can accompany a divorce. Losing significant assets is never easy but when it comes time to split a 401K or another type of retirement plan sponsored by an employer, there may well be a way for people to minimize what they have to let go of. 

It is often believed that a divorce decree is the one document in which the parameters of any property division are to be spelled out. While certainly all agreements should be documented here, when it comes to splitting 401K accounts, the United States Department of Labor explains that a qualified domestic relations order will also be needed. The QDRO allows a retirement plan to make payments to a person other than the owner of the account.

Spousal support taxation to change in 2019

39435811_S.jpgIf you are one of the many people in Missouri who is considering getting a divorce in this calendar year or perhaps after that, you will want to educate yourself about how the recently passed tax bill may impact the decisions you make along the way. When working through the details of a divorce settlement in which assets and debts must be assigned to each spouse, the assignment of child support or spousal support may well come into play.

For some time now, people who have made child support payments have been responsible for taxes on that money. In contrast, the people who have made spousal support payments have been able to deduce this amount from their income tax returns. It has been the responsibility of the spouse who receives alimony payments to pay income tax on these funds. While this has not necessarily made making spousal support payments something people want to do, it can ease the financial burden to some degree.

Finding happiness after divorce

11132370_S.jpgAs any Missouri resident who has gone through a divorce is aware, the stress from the process does not end when paperwork is finalized. Instead, the pain from recovering and moving on can persist for months and even years afterward. The important aspect to keep in mind, however, is that the struggle after a separation is common. It can be challenging to restructure everyday life activities, social circles and traditions. After the dust settles, contentment can be found once again.

The Kansas City Star reported last year that reevaluating all aspects of life after a divorce can be beneficial. By letting the pain of separation run its course, individuals can take a clear look at the more technical sides of the process, including finances. One common misstep that many make, according to the Star, is hiding assets -- the article encourages those in this situation to examine documents such as checking account statements, expense accounts and tax returns to ensure all aspects of the process are on the table. On a more literal level, the Star also urges readers who have recently gone through a divorce to pay attention to basic necessities and overall self-care. Cleaning out a house after a marriage can work wonders for personal health. 

Raising children after a divorce

39486117_S.jpgRaising children is never an easy task but for Missouri residents who have gotten or are getting divorced, the challenges associated with parenting can be even greater than when they were married. Even after two people are no longer married, they must still find ways to work together for the good of their children. In this way, they are not really able to be full divorced of one another.

As U.S. News and World Report indicates, the way in which divorced parents work together can have a significant impact on their children. Co-parenting requires patience and consciousness to facilitate a positive experience for all. One thing recommended is for each parent to find opportunities to say something nice about the other parent to or around their children. This will not only create a generally positive atmosphere but is one way of letting kids know that it is safe for them to love both parents.

Child support payments and low-income parents

46326416_S.jpgFor parents who are struggling financially, whether they have custody of their child or are a non-custodial parent, child support can have a significant impact on their lives. We know how hard it can be for some low-income parents to pay the child support that they owe. At the same time, we are also aware of the struggles that custodial parents may face when they do not receive the support they are entitled to. Either way, our law office believes it is crucial for parents to do whatever it takes to fulfill their obligations and access any resources that can help them out.

Low-income parents may have a hard time with child support for different reasons. Sometimes, people in this position lack employment experience or other tools they need to pull themselves out of their long-term situation. On the other hand, some people may be facing temporary or sudden financial hardships after losing their job unexpectedly. Someone going through this could be able to have their order modified, so long as conditions are met. People struggling with financial hurdles often have an incredible amount of stress to begin with and child support can make things tougher, which highlights how critical it is to handle these matters correctly.

When emotions interfere with divorce issues

46316650_S.jpgIf you are contemplating divorce, already in the middle of the process, or have already parted ways with your former spouse, you may have various responsibilities and concerns. You could be worried about how marital property will be split between you and your spouse. Or, perhaps you are losing sleep thinking about how custody will be awarded. During these times, an array of emotions can arise, from anger to depression and high levels of anxiety. It is important to prevent these emotions from having a negative impact on your divorce case.

Our law office knows that people may feel out of control during a divorce proceeding. All of these factors can significantly increase the chances of strong emotions, but you should try to maintain a sense of calm and be careful as you work through any hurdles that you have to navigate. Regrettably, some people have allowed their negative emotions to get in the way of their divorce case, whether they have an outburst in the courtroom or fail to prepare properly because they feel too overwhelmed. With so much at stake, especially if you have kids or significant assets, it is vital to avoid this if at all possible.

Untangling child custody disputes

34372258_S.jpgHome is a place to unwind, bond with family and friends and enjoy peace of mind -- these aspects are especially ideal for children who are affected by divorce. Millions across the nation struggle with making two homes what one used to be. Yet a 2016 Missouri law has caused many parents to develop concern in regards to how much time, exactly, they are able to spend with their own children. Much confusion has surrounded this 50/50 parenting law, and some fathers in particular have decided to speak out.

In September 2016, KSHB News covered the lobby carried out by the movement on father's rights that ended up in Washington D.C. The movement focused on the potential Missouri parenting laws that were subject to change, regarding parents' encouraged equal rights to their children post-separation. Some of the fathers involved in the movement had spent little to no time with their own children due to preexisting child custody laws. Like most states, however, Missouri prioritizes the best interests of the child in divorce cases -- with that said, the fine print can make matters complicated. 

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Stange Law Firm, PC

Stange Law Firm, PC
256 NE Tudor Rd.
Lee's Summit, Missouri 64086

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