Deciding to end a marriage can be a difficult and stressful decision. Once you have decided to end your marriage, you may have questions about spousal support, child support, property division, and the logistics of seeking a divorce.

An experienced divorce lawyer can answer these questions, guide you through the divorce process, and fight to protect your future.

At Semita Legalis, we partner with our clients to help them work through a divorce and offer advice and legal representation so our clients can make informed decisions to reach their goals.

Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage

Divorce, also known as “dissolution of marriage,” is a legal action that terminates the marital rights between spouses, distributes assets and debts, and may result in spousal support and maintenance orders. When children are involved, a dissolution of marriage will also address issues of child custody and visitation, and child support.

Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois all use a “no-fault” dissolution of marriage, which means you can seek a divorce without the need to prove abuse, adultery, or other grounds for the divorce. When filing for a dissolution of marriage, you will allege that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” or that you and your spouse are incompatible as the reason for the divorce.

To be eligible to seek a dissolution of marriage in Missouri and Illinois, you and your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days immediately preceding your filing for a dissolution of marriage. In Kansas, you and your spouse must have been residents of the state for at least 60 days before filing for a divorce.

Uncontested Dissolution of Marriage

If you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the dissolution of marriage, including property division, debt payments, spousal support, attorney’s fees, and child custody, visitation, and support issues, you may be eligible for an uncontested dissolution of marriage.

If you and your spouse are not in complete agreement on all of these issues, you do not qualify for an uncontested dissolution of marriage.

Starting a Divorce

If there are aspects of your divorce that you and your spouse do not agree on, you will file a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” to initiate the divorce process. Your lawyer will guide you through the divorce process so you and your spouse can come to an agreement on all aspects of your divorce, or until your case is decided by a domestic relations judge.

Property Division

When a couple is seeking a dissolution of marriage, their property must be divided. A divorcing couple must divide real property, like the home, as well as personal property such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, and cash, cars, clothing, collectibles, and furniture.

Property Classification: Marital Property or Non-Marital Property

Before dividing property in a divorce, the court must first classify the property as either marital property or separate property.

Marital property is property that was acquired during the marriage. Property is presumed to be marital property unless a spouse can prove that it is non-marital.

Non-marital property or separate property is property that belongs to only one spouse. Separate property includes property that was acquired before the marriage as well as property that one spouse inherited from a relative or received as a gift during the marriage.

Courts will only divide marital property. Separate property remains with the spouse that brought the property to the marriage.

Dividing Property in a Divorce

You and your spouse may be able to agree on a property division in your divorce. If you are not able to come to an agreement, the judge will make a decision about how to divide marital property.

Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois are all equitable division states, which means that the judge will divide property in a way that is fair, but not necessarily equal. In deciding how to divide marital property, the judge will consider:

  • Economic circumstances, including anticipated future income;
  • How much each spouse contributed to the acquisition of property;
  • The value of each spouse’s non-marital property;
  • Behavior during the marriage; and
  • Custodial arrangements for minor children (if applicable)

Maintenance Payments

Maintenance payments, commonly referred to as alimony, are paid by one spouse to the other spouse after a dissolution of marriage to assist in financially supporting the ex-spouse. Maintenance payments can be agreed upon contractually, where both spouses agree to payments of a certain amount over a certain period of time, or they may be ordered by a judge.

When setting maintenance payments, courts will consider the following factors:

  • Financial needs and ability of each spouse to be financially independent;
  • Time needed to acquire education and training to find employment;
  • Earning capacity of each spouse;
  • Standard of living established during the marriage;
  • Financial obligations and assets;
  • Length of the marriage;
  • Age and physical and emotional condition;
  • Ability of the paying spouse to remain financially independent while supporting the other spouse;
  • Conduct of each spouse during the marriage; and
  • any other relevant factors

The maintenance order will include a termination date. Depending on the order, maintenance may or may not be subject to modification due to a change of circumstances that occurs prior to the termination of the maintenance order. Maintenance payments are usually ordered to be made monthly.

Child Custody and Child Support

When making child custody and child support decisions, the court will consider the best interests of the children. Courts will try to establish a child visitation schedule that allows for frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with parents. Parents are required to submit a parenting plan that will address how the parents will cooperate to foster the child’s emotional and physical well-being. This includes:

  • Legal and physical custody of the child(ren);
  • Residential visitation time, including drop-off times and locations;
  • Child support;
  • Childcare providers;
  • Health-insurance coverage;
  • Transportation and education costs;
  • Tax consequences;
  • Educational and medical decisions;
  • Dispute-resolution procedures;
  • Telephonic/computer access between the children and each parent; and
  • Other parental obligations (including methods of resolving variations in the plan)

Semita Legalis: Guidance for Your Path

Deciding to get a divorce is difficult, and the decisions you make today will affect you and your family for years to come. Semita Legalis guides our clients to a brighter future by providing clear, helpful legal counsel, committed advocacy, and fair rates.

Learn more about divorce attorney David Breon and contact Semita Legalis today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.