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Contested Divorce in Missouri
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A contested divorce occurs when both parties cannot come to an agreement on one or multiple issues, such as property division, child custody, alimony, etc. If the spouses cannot amicably resolve their issues, a judge will decide on the terms of divorce through court litigation. If you believe that a contested divorce is imminent, you must obtain the experienced legal representation from a qualified family law attorney.
At Smith Law Offices, LLC, we provide high-quality legal services to both individuals and families throughout the state of Missouri. With more than 50 years of collective experience, our St. Charles lawyers possess an extensive knowledge of state family laws to guide you through the intricacies of the legal system.
The Process of a Contested Divorce
In Missouri, a contested divorce starts with the filing of a petition for divorce, which is served upon the other spouse. If the other spouse fails to file an answer within 30 days, the other spouse will be in default and the spouse who filed the divorce petition can proceed to take a judgment against the other party.
Each party must then provide the other with a statement of income and expenses, statement of property and debt, disclosure of all marital and non-marital property and debt, pay stubs and tax returns for the past three years, as well as a parenting plan and child support calculation under Form 14 (if children are involved).
Furthermore, each party may require the other to disclose documents related to all property, including those which might be concealed by the other party, as well as all checking accounts and credit card statements for the last few years.
Both parties may go through the discovery process, where each spouse asks formal questions to each other about income, property, child custody, drug use, and even adultery. While most divorces end in mediation, contested divorces can go to trial if both parties cannot agree to the terms of their divorce.
Once the parties file for divorce and go through discovery, the process of obtaining a contested divorce begins in earnest.
In many contested divorces, the court issues temporary orders. Temporary orders for matters such as property division, alimony, and child support and custody dictate how spouses handle those issues while their divorce is ongoing. To establish temporary orders, the court typically holds meetings both parties can attend. After hearing evidence from both parties, the court will establish a temporary order that the judge presiding over the case considers equitable.
To finalize a contested divorce, the court holds a trial. The spouses have the opportunity to present evidence supporting their proposed terms for the divorce, cross-examine each other, and even bring forth witnesses. After the trial, the judge presiding over the case will issue what they consider to be an equitable divorce decree, finalizing the dissolution of the marriage.
Contested divorces can take a significant amount of time and money to finalize. For this reason, many courts and attorneys advise spouses to try and settle their differences using a form of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation. However, in many cases, filing for a contested divorce is the only way for both parties to obtain an equitable outcome.
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