Monday, July 20, 2009

Missouri's requirements for child support after high school graduation

We are now at the time of the year when recent high school grads start enrolling in their post-secondary classes. Here in Missouri, if a parent has been paying child support for that grad, now is the time to start looking at the state requirements to continue getting assistance.

High school grads who are planning on continuing their education are eligible to have child support continued - and get help with tuition expenses - under certain conditions. The first is that the student will be pursuing higher education. That can mean trade school, beauty school, massage therapy school - or it can mean college.

The student must be enrolled as a full time student (Missouri says that means 12 hours as a general rule). Or, if the student is working at least 20 hours a week, he or she can be enrolled in as few as 9 credit hours.

The student must give BOTH parents official notification of his or her classes. This is one of the requirements that gets a lot of push back. I frequently hear students complain about having to send an official notice of enrollment to the parent who's been paying child support. The statutes are quite clear, though - and so is the case law. Without the notification to both parents the student runs a significant risk of being ineligible to continue to receive child support. Occasionally, I have seen a court that will allow a student to ignore this requirement, but that is the exception to the rule.

The absolute deadline for getting enrolled and getting all the information to both parents is October 1st. If you wait past the date of enrollment, it's really easy to forget to get the official enrollment notifications to both parents. Much easier to do it all at the same time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Divorce without going to court

Did you know that it's possible for some people to get a divorce in Missouri without going to court - not even once! It's true, although not widely known.

The way it's done is through something called an affidavit for a judgment of dissolution of marriage. An affidavit is a legal paper that spells out certain facts and swears they are true. In a divorce action, if both husband and wife agree to the facts, it's call a joint affidavit. If only one of the spouses is saying the facts are true, then it is the affidavit of just that spouse.

There are some rules that govern what is supposed to go in the affidavit. And there are rules about who can get their divorce by just filing paperwork with the court.

If you and your spouse have children together, you will not be able to get a divorce with just an affidavit in many courts - even if both of you have attorneys. If one of you does not have an attorney, you won't be allowed to get a divorce by affidavit.

If you and your spouse have no children and very little property, getting a divorce without going to court is a realistice option in most cases -- as long as both of you agree on the division of the property and debts that you do have.

Divorce by affidavit was originally only available to people filing in Jackson County and some of the other more progressive counties. Now, though, it is more widely available to people residing in suburban and rural counties.

Having divorce by affidavit available to you means that you don't have to go to court. You don't have to use a vacation day, or worse yet, take an unpaid day off. For people going through the pain of a divorce, this is one of the bright spots in the system.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Maintenance in Missouri

One request that we are hearing more and more frequently these days is for maintenance. That's what we used to call alimony - kind of. From the position of a lawyer, maintenance and alimony are two completely different things - which is why we make a distinction. From the perspective of the person either receiving or paying, there's no difference.

Missouri makes a further distinction between maintenance granted before the divorce is granted and after the divorce is granted. Just to keep the system from getting to easy, the benchmarks for receiving maintenance are different depending on whether the maintenance is ordered for times before the divorce or for times after the divorce. The short version of the difference is that the bar for having maintenance awarded is much lower for payments made before the divorce. If those payments are to be continued after the divorce, there is a much higher standard.

Sometimes folks just look across State Line Road wistfully - because Johnson County, Kansas, has a rule that is almost set in stone with regard to maintenance. Kansas has a formula to determine the amount and duration of maintenance. Missouri doesn't.

In Missouri maintenance is generally more difficult to get. In Kansas there's the formula. Either it helps you - or it doesn't.

In Missouri maintenance, if you get it, will continue until a court says it stops - which can be for the life of the paying party. In Kansas, there's a formula that says when it stops.

Are there other circumstances under which Missouri stops child support payments? Sure. Payments stop if the paying party dies - unless he agreed to continue the payments until the other parties dies. Payments stop if the receiving party dies or remarries. And, in some increasingly unusual cases, payments stop at the end of a specific period of time.