Divorce Litigation

family law attorneyGenerally, the divorce litigation process in Missouri, also referred to as the “dissolution of marriage process”, is initiated by the filing of a Petition with the Court. The spouse filing the Petition is referred to as the Petitioner and the other spouse is referred to as the Respondent. After the Petition is filed, the Petition, and accompanying paperwork, then has to be served on the Respondent. Service of the Petition is usually done by the Sheriff’s department, although arrangements can be made for alternative methods, including but not limited to, delivering the Petition to the Respondent, or an attorney representing the Respondent, in anticipation of receiving a voluntary entry of appearance.

Once service has been obtained in some manner, then the parties, either directly or through their attorneys, exchange documentation and information regarding their respective property holdings and income. The ultimate goal is to obtain an accurate and complete picture of the financial circumstances of both parties. The process of exchanging documentation can be done informally or formally, depending upon the degree of cooperation and trust between the parties and/or their attorneys. The informal and voluntary exchange of documentation minimizes costs, accelerates the process and generates an atmosphere that is conducive to an amiable resolution of matters. Courts often encourage cooperation in exchanging documentation and implement rules requiring the exchange of certain types of documents in every case.

family law attorneyIn the event there is a lack of cooperation in exchanging documentation more formal means can be used to obtain the necessary information. Such formal means include, but are not limited to, the use of Interrogatories, Requests for Documents, Subpoenas and the taking of depositions. These tools that are available to either party to gather needed information, and each tool has advantages and disadvantages in terms of time, utility, and costs. Which tools are right to use will depend on the circumstances of each case, the time in which information is needed, and the financial resources of the parties.

Once a reasonably accurate and complete picture of the financial circumstances of the parties is obtained then efforts can be made to resolve the matters at hand. Resolution can be either by the parties reaching an agreement and settling the case, or, when an agreement cannot be achieved, by having the matter resolved by the Judge.

If the parties are attempting to resolve the matter themselves, typically, offers and counter offers of settlement are exchanged. Such exchanges typically result in the number of issues in dispute being reduced and/or the identification of issues that need input from the Court. If input is needed from the Court it is not uncommon for attorneys to meet with the Judge, present what their respective client’s positions are and obtain some feedback from the Judge, all in an informal manner without the need for evidentiary hearings.

If the parties are unable to resolve the matter themselves even after input from the judge, then the matter is set for a hearing (i.e. for trial). At trial, the parties will present witnesses and documents to support their respective positions. After the parties have submitted their case to the judge, the judge will render a decision (or judgment). How long it takes for a judge to enter a judgment will depend on the complexity of the case and each Judge’s caseload. It is not uncommon for judges to enter judgments approximately 60-90 days after the trial date.

Once a judgment is entered, then unless the parties challenge or appeal the judgment, the matter becomes final, and the case will be closed with the Court. Meanwhile, the parties will make sure they have received the property and/or assets they are awarded by the Court or by agreement, with arrangements be made to exchange property, change titles to property, and/or having Qualified Domestic Relations Orders prepared to address retirement benefits, as is needed.

Legal Consultation

Contact our office today at 314.448.4230 to schedule your consultation meeting. We are available to help advise you on your unique family law situation. Our legal team will be happy to set up a time that works best for you and your family.

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13321 N Outer 40 Rd
Suite 700
Town and Country, Missouri 63017

(314) 448-4230

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