Missouri Family Law

A top Missouri family law attorney in Springfield MO, Masterson Law provides high-quality, affordable, and proven legal advocacy for family law and other civil issues.

Missouri family law issues can be frustrating, sad, and difficult. We know there is a lot on the line and that is why you deserve the best. Expect responsive, thoughtful help from the team at Masterson Law when it comes to your family. From divorces to complicated child custody issues, we are here for you. 

Masterson Law
(417) 522-1280
1771 S. Fremont
Springfield, MO 65804

Missouri Family Law Overview

The scope of family law, as a legal practice area, is vast – it entails adoption, child custody, divorce, marriage, and similar issues. Many of these laws are fairly standard across the United States, so Missouri family law may appear very similar to other states’ family law, although this area is legislated by individual states. Family law also covers abortion laws; although these have more variation across states.

While starting a family is a choice everyone has, anyone starting one must be ready to pursue some specific procedures related to the responsibilities of family life. Things don’t always go as planned when dealing with interactions between relatives, which is why Missouri family law exists. The state and federal laws aren’t binding on personal relationships. However, divorce, adoption, and the rights of same-sex couples to get married are all governed by these laws.  Thus, family law can be summarized as the set of rules, regulations, and court procedures involving the family as a unit.

Because family law is such a large part of the law and covers so many topics, it is best to talk to a Missouri family law attorney if you are facing an issue. Your Missouri family law attorney should be experienced, knowledgeable, and court-tested in whatever specific area of family law you are dealing with.

Missouri Marriage Law

Aspects covered by the Missouri marriage laws include:

  • Prohibited marriages;
  • Annulment and acceptable grounds;
  • Divorce and legal requirements;
  • Handling marital property in a divorce;
  • Marriage money and property;
  • Prenuptial agreements

Of course, the law also gets involved when you get married (apply for a marriage license), but that is a straightforward matter that can typically be handled by non-legal people. The issues listed above may be more complex and might require the assistance of a Missouri family lawyer.

Missouri Divorce

Missouri divorce is an aspect of the Missouri marriage law, and it covers all the forms and processes associated with divorce, the legal approach to alimony, and many other issues around divorce and money.

Child Custody in Missouri

The different forms of acceptable custody in Missouri are defined under Missouri child custody laws, a part of family law. This section of law also includes how the court decides the custody, custody agreements, custody problems, and similar issues.

Missouri Adoption

Anyone who has looked into adoption knows that the process can be quite lengthy. The whole adoption process, which entails requirements for the adults wishing to adopt, home residency requirements, when it’s necessary to seek consent of the child, and related factors, is governed by Missouri family law.

Missouri adoption laws are similar to those in other states.  An adult above 21, either single or married, and with or without children, can adopt a child.  However, they must meet some basic requirements, like good health, no criminal records, and others.

Cohabitation in Missouri

Two people living together like a married couple can be said to be “cohabitating.”  The definition of cohabitation differs across various states’ laws, and there are differences in property regards with regards to cohabitating couples across states. Though it is uncommon, a few states regard cohabitation as a criminal offense through their adultery laws.

Missouri Domestic Partnerships

St. Louis City Ordinance 64401 is one example of a domestic partnership law in Missouri. It stipulates that a domestic partnership will be legally recognized, only if both parties:

  • are 18 or older;
  • share a committed and close relationship;
  • stay together for a long time in St. Louis City;
  • are registered as partners
  • are not married, blood-related, or in a civil union.

Persons of opposite sexes or the same sex can be recognized as domestic partners in St. Louis, MO. To register, there is a form to fill out and a fee of $10.

Civil union is a term often used interchangeably with domestic partnership, but Missouri does not officially recognize civil unions. However, you can register your civil union with the government at a Missouri Recorder of Deeds office if necessary for your insurance requirements or other reasons.

Reproductive Rights in Missouri

The term “reproductive rights” is most often used to refer to laws regarding abortion, but it also includes issues such as sexual education classes, accessibility of contraception, and more. In Missouri, there has been an ongoing heated debate about reproductive rights.

Emancipation of Minors in Missouri

A person 18 years of age and older is considered an adult in Missouri. Missouri emancipation laws, such as they are, permit someone under the age of 18 to petition the court to be granted the rights and responsibilities of an adult.

Missouri Domestic Violence Law

Some criminal matters, such as domestic violence, also involve family law. For instance, a victim of domestic violence may seek a protective order and perhaps a modification of child custody.

Parental Rights and Liability in Missouri

The legal concept of parental rights generally refers to a parent’s right to make decisions regarding a child’s education, health care, and religion, among other things. If parents are separated or divorced, these rights can extend to custody and visitation.

Parents may be liable for the negligent or criminal acts of their children, beginning when children are age 8 to 10 and ending when the children legally become adults at age 18. This means parents can be subject to lawsuits or criminal sanctions in some circumstances if their children commit crimes or cause injuries or property damage to a third party.

Guardianship in Missouri

A guardianship is a crucial legal tool that allows one person or entity to make decisions for another person (the ward). Missouri family courts are tasked with establishing guardianships. They typically appoint guardians in instances of incapacity or disability.

Missouri Foster Care

Foster families provide safe and caring temporary homes for Missouri children whose families are currently unable to care for them. To be a foster parent you must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age.
  • Complete a child abuse/neglect check and criminal record check including fingerprints.
  • Be in good health, both physically and mentally.
  • Have a stable income.
  • Be willing to participate in and complete a free training and assessment process.

In some cases, a foster family is able to petition family courts to adopt the child or children they have fostered after a certain amount of time has passed.

Child Abuse in Missouri

Like domestic violence, child abuse is a criminal matter that involves family law. Child abuse can result from physical, emotional, or sexual harm. While child abuse is often in the form of an action, there are also examples of inaction that constitute abuse, such as neglect.

Surrogacy in Missouri

Surrogacy is an option for people who wish to become parents but cannot or do not want to carry the child themselves, so they use a surrogate.

When it comes to the transferring of parental rights from the surrogate mother to the intended parent(s), for the most part, the process is a smooth one. While the state of Missouri allows pre-birth hearings, court orders cannot be completed until after a child is born through surrogacy.

Missouri Family Law Statutes & Forms

Missouri family law is comprised of various statutes compiled within the Revised Statutes of Missouri, which contains all state laws. The Missouri family law statutes can be updated via repeals or supplemental laws through the normal legislative process in state government. Below, we discuss one recent update to Missouri family law.

 

Missouri Family Law Statutes

The Missouri General Assembly, in the legislative session, concluded in May 2016, passed several amendments on the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act (UDMA). The UDMA is responsible for setting the standards and procedures to be followed during a divorce process in Missouri.

The first change is to Section 452.375. The statute initially explains legal and physical custody, and how the court is expected to make a custody decision.  In the current law, the court is expected to consider “all relevant factors,” which comprises eight non-exhaustive items before arriving at a decision. However, the new law holds that the court would only consider these factors if the parties are unable to reach an agreement on the custody.  Likewise, when the parties fail to reach an agreement, the court, in addition to considering the factors, must also issue written findings of the facts and conclusions of law that justify the custody decision.

There is also a language change that ensures non-discrimination between parents when making a custody decision. According to the change, “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.” The former language prevents the court from giving preference due to financial status, sex, or age. However, the addition offers clarity to the initial “tender years doctrine,” which meant that mothers were believed to be better at caring for children below the age of seven. The doctrine has never been accepted by the courts, but now, it is part of the statute itself.

Section 452.375 was also amended in the area of the required language in the judgment as regards the non-compliance with court orders.  Now, every judgment is expected to come with a paragraph that explains that non-compliance with custody orders may be handled by filing a confirmed motion for family access or one for contempt.  Perhaps, with this, the legislature believes that non-compliance will reduce while directing every parent towards the right solutions when non-compliance occurs.

Missouri Family Law Forms

As described in the Missouri family law statutes, there are forms required for many Missouri family law processes. You can access a complete list of Missouri family law forms via the state of Missouri’s Judicial Branch website here.

The Judicial Branch has made these forms editable online, so you can fill the forms using Adobe Acrobat. There is help text linked to each fillable field; to access this information just hover your cursor over such field. Note that questions that require you to select just a checkbox cannot be un-selected. If you have trouble understanding the legal terms, you can check the “Legal terms” section for assistance on their meanings, or speak to a Missouri family law attorney.  

You may need to pay a filing fee and/service fee for some forms, and this is usually paid when you file. You can get further information about the required fees and deposits or any local court rule procedures from the local circuit clerk’s office.

Missouri Family Court

There are multiple Missouri family courts in the state. Which Missouri family court you go to depends mainly on where you and the other people involved in your case reside. Missouri family court, like Missouri juvenile court, is a subset of the Missouri circuit courts.

Typically, family court is located within the circuit court in the county seat, although there may be additional circuit courts in heavily populated counties. Missouri family court and juvenile court hear cases dealing with child abuse and neglect, termination of parental rights, child custody, divorce, domestic violence, visitation rights, child support and alimony, adoptions, and much more. In addition to providing a venue for hearing cases and filing family law forms, Missouri family courts may offer additional services such as mediation, parenting courses, and social services.

A trusted Missouri family law attorney can represent you in Missouri family court and guide you through the family court process. However, the Missouri Litigant Awareness Program has been designed for individuals who want to represent themselves in court in a family law matter, including paternity, child custody or support, and divorce among others.  By participating in the program, you will get to know the Missouri family court system better, along with the dangers and duties associated with self-representation in court.

Missouri Family Law Attorney

Dealing with a divorce, legal separation, or child custody matter single-handedly can be an incredibly challenging experience. You don’t have to struggle alone! You can ease things by hiring a Missouri family law attorney and enjoy the services of a strong legal advocate.  A Missouri family law attorney will explain the laws, negotiate on your behalf, and appear with you in court.

Since not all family law matters require legal counsel, you may be inclined to attempt to save money and go it alone. Don’t worry though, hiring a Missouri family law attorney does not have to break the bank. At Masterson Law, we have compiled tips on managing the cost of divorce and can provide Missouri family law services tailored to fit your budget. We want you to get the best outcome in your Missouri family law case, and we have the right experience and expertise to help you do that. Contact us today!

CONTACT SUMMER

Summer Masterson-Goethals
Consumer and family lawyer, former legal aid attorney and Missouri Bar Leadership Academy member, Springfield Business Journal 40 under 40 Honoree. Site Map

Masterson Law
1771 S. Fremont
Springfield, MO 65804
(417) 522-1280

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