Columbia, Missouri Divorce Attorney
"I am committed to serving as your trusted advocate as we develop and carry out the legal plan that is appropriate for your situation and the issues at hand in your divorce." — Columbia, MO Attorney Myia McKenna
Few life events impact your life like the financial and emotional upheaval that can come with the dissolution of a marriage. Your divorce process and the judgment by which you will be bound will have far-reaching consequences for many aspects of your life including your relationship with your children and your finances. It is daunting for many people to think of a judge making decisions affecting their child's upbringing and their financial present and future. You will need experienced and compassionate divorce counsel who will carefully listen to gain in-depth understanding of your unique situation and what is most important to you.
McKenna Family Law knows that each family is different, each divorce is different, and each client is different. I will get to know you and your situation, explain the relevant law, explore and discuss your options with you, and work with you to make a clear plan of action for your individual case. I am committed to serving as your trusted advocate as we develop and carry out the legal plan that is appropriate for your situation and the issues at hand in your divorce.
Based in Columbia, I work with clients in Boone County and throughout Central Missouri. I welcome you to contact McKenna Family Law to speak with us about how we can serve you.
Missouri Divorce Process
With the assistance of their respective attorneys and sound legal advice, most divorcing couples will settle their divorce out of court, and no trial will be required. In some cases, the parties will not be required to set foot in a courtroom. If the parties do not reach an agreement on all issues, however, a trial will be required for items that remain in dispute.Whether you reach an agreement or try your case to the court, the legal portion of the divorce process will involve the following:
Determining Marital and Non-marital Property
Divorce will involve determining which property is marital property that will be subject to division when you divorce, and which property is non-marital or separate. Non-marital or separate property will remain with the spouse who owns it. Often, the same asset may have a marital component and a non-marital component, that is, it is mixed or commingled.
Determining the marital or separate character of your property and debts can be complicated and require detailed evidence either to protect your non-marital property or to pursue property that was acquired during the marriage and which should be divided equitably. To confound the issue, it is possible for separate property to be "transmuted" and become marital property in Missouri. Applying the law to your situation and your assets can be incredibly fact-specific.
If you have separate assets to protect in your divorce, or if your spouse has separate property, it is essential that you have an experienced divorce attorney to represent your interests in a divorce. I am committed to making sure any separate property of my clients is properly protected and awarded to the party to whom it belongs, and that the property that is truly marital is fairly divided.
Dividing Marital Property
Once it is determined which property and debts are properly considered marital, they will need to be equitably divided between the spouses. Equitable division does not necessarily mean equal division under Missouri law. There are enumerated factors in Missouri that guide the equitable division of marital assets. You will need an attorney who is prepared to zealously represent you in negotiating a favorable settlement for you and equally prepared to present your case to the court if no settlement is reached. Divorce agreements will be negotiated based upon the marital property laws and must be approved by the court. Every marital asset and marital debt will either be set over to one spouse or divided between them in some fashion. I make sure the property division is practicable and enforceable by a court.
Many couples have interests in real estate, retirement accounts, pension benefits, and personal property to divide and distribute. McKenna Family Law prepares and handles Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO's) that are entered after divorce to divide certain assets. More complicated asset situations frequently arise when the parties to a divorce have a "high asset divorce" and/or complex ownership interests that may need to be valued and divided, for example. These cases require skilled and knowledgeable counsel. McKenna Family Law is prepared to handle the division of your assets whether they be limited or extensive. I work hard to make sure my clients receive their fair portion of the marital property they have acquired.
Making Child Custody Arrangements
Physical custody and legal custody of the children will be determined in your divorce. The court will be required to incorporate a Parenting Plan into your divorce judgment, which is a detailed document outlining arrangements for your children and many aspects of the parenting of your children post-divorce. It will set out provisions for your children — including physical custody and all scheduling arrangements, and legal custody and a process for how major decisions will be made — and it will address communication and conflict resolution between the parents.
Child custody arrangements are of paramount concern in a divorce. This is especially true if there are concerns related to parenting such as substance abuse, child abuse or maltreatment, or alienation. I am committed to helping parents fight for and develop the best parenting plan for their particular needs and their particular child or children.
The divorce process requires consideration of how the parties will continue to provide for their children's financial support and expenses. Child support in Missouri is calculated pursuant to a "Form 14", which takes into account many items including the income of each parent, each parent's existing obligations to support other biological children, the cost of insurance coverage and daycare for the child, and the time the child spends in each parent's care. Many negative changes and struggles children face when their parents divorce are due to financial upheaval from the parents' separation: It costs more to maintain two households than one.
I will give you a frank assessment of each parent's financial obligations for your children. In some cases child support will be paid by one parent to the other, and in some cases certain expenses will be divided, and no child support will be paid. In my experience, people want the child support amount they either pay or receive to simply be fair and appropriate for taking care of their children. I will make sure all relevant factors are taken into account and that the child support calculation is based upon accurate information.
Maintenance or "alimony" is available under Missouri law for divorcing spouses who are financially dependent on the other spouse. Spouses who cannot provide for their own reasonable needs may be eligible to receive maintenance. Even if one spouse demonstrates a need for maintenance, the amount he or she can be awarded is of course limited by the amount the other spouse can afford to pay. Other factors guide determination of an appropriate amount of maintenance in Missouri, or whether maintenance should be awarded at all. Missouri has no formula for calculating maintenance. Claims for maintenance are often quite controversial, with the amount and duration of maintenance the subject of dispute.
Due to the implications for each party's financial future, maintenance awards are often hotly contested and need special consideration in your divorce. If you require maintenance to meet your needs or have a spouse who may require maintenance, you will need candid advice and experienced advocacy on your behalf. I represent parties who need maintenance as well as those who need protection from claims for maintenance in a divorce. I am well-prepared to analyze your maintenance case and fight for a favorable result for my clients.
Awards of attorney fees are available in a divorce. That means one spouse can request that the other spouse pay or contribute to his or her attorney's fees. It is frequently the case that one spouse makes significantly more money or is in control of the family's finances and is therefore better able to hire able divorce counsel. Attorney fee awards are available so that both spouses can afford to retain counsel to represent them in a divorce. In some cases, accountants or other experts will need to be hired by each party as part of the divorce as well. If either party has requested payment of attorney's fees, the request for attorney's fees will be addressed in your divorce negotiations and at trial if your case requires trial. Courts have considerable discretion in awarding attorney's fees, so you need an attorney familiar with the court hearing your case.
Speak with a Missouri Divorce Attorney
If you are in Columbia or elsewhere in Central Missouri, we encourage you to contact McKenna Family Law to speak with us about how we can help you through divorce with compassion and experienced guidance.