Divorce Law 101 (Part Two)

man and women sitting on a couch

A significant amount of stress can be avoided during a divorce if you understand what’s happening and know what your options are. This is the second part of a two-part series about the basics of divorce. You can read the first post here.

Equitable division of marital assets

If the parties can’t agree as to how their marital assets or “shared estate” should be divided, then a contested hearing will be held in which the court will review information from the discovery process about the value of the estate.

One of the court’s primary concerns is that marital assets should be divided equitably. It’s important to note the distinction that “equitably” doesn’t necessarily mean an equal split between the two parties.

Instead, the court will factor in considerations such as how much money each spouse makes. If one spouse makes or has a lot more money than the other, then the courts are likely to give the spouse with less money a greater share of the marital estate to offset this financial inequity.

What are marital assets?

In both Kansas and Missouri, there are non-marital assets and marital assets. Non-marital assets are those that belong to an individual spouse and aren’t a part of the shared estate.

Non-marital assets include, but are not limited to:

– Gifts
– Property acquired before the marriage
– Property acquired after a petition for divorce is filed in Kansas or a petition for a dissolution of marriage in Missouri
– Property excluded from the marital estate by both parties
– The increase in the value of property acquired before the marriage or in any of the above circumstances unless the other spouse contributed to the increase in its value.

Marital assets are all property acquired during the marriage, or that both spouses have a stake of ownership in, such as a shared checking account.

Child custody issues

The court’s primary concern for the resolution of custody disputes during the end of a marriage is what’s in the best interests of the child.

In the past, courts were more apt to award primary custody of the child to one party, with the other party having regular but less parenting time than the primary custodial parent. More often now, however, courts award shared custody with about equal parenting time for both parents, recognizing that a strong relationship with both parents is oftentimes in the best interests of the child.

If the parties cannot agree on custody and parenting time, both sides will need to appear for a contested hearing in which each parent will present his or her case as to why s/he should have primary custody. Again, that decision is based on what’s in the best interest of the child.

Child support is usually based on the mathematical formula determined from the court approved child support worksheet. In Missouri, this is called a Form 14. In Kansas, it’s called the Child Support Worksheet.

In both states, the formula takes into account the income of each parent, the amount of parenting time, and which party pays for certain expenses for the children including health insurance, daycare and clothing.

Protecting your mental health

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy mindset during the end of your marriage is to share your feelings with your friends and family, and perhaps even with a counselor. The courts don’t look down on people seeing counselors during this process, and may event encourage it.

Hopefully, you’ve gleaned some useful information to face the end of your marriage with confidence. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns, or if we can help you during this time.

Click here to learn more about our Family Law Practice Group.

Image: Thinkstock/lofilolo
*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.

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