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St. Louis Family Law Blog

Changes to SNAP could help children

42308258_S.jpgParents in Missouri and elsewhere who benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, may need to enter a child support agreement to obtain benefits. This was according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture memo encouraging state leaders to enforce such a rule. There are roughly 40 million Americans who participate in the program, and many of them are children who live in homes with a single parent.

Often, these children live in poverty because noncustodial parents don't pay child support. By tying SNAP benefits to child support agreements, it aims to reduce the child support gap by about $13.5 billion. However, some argue that it could result in a noncustodial parent lashing out at a custodial parent, which would not benefit the child. This is why the USDA will allow states to review cases to determine if a forced agreement could cause harm to a parent or child.

Divorce outcomes vary for stay-at-home moms

97589765_S.jpgFamilies in Missouri with a stay-at-home mother may have unique concerns during a divorce. Approximately 25 percent of American mothers raise children at home, compared to 7 percent of American fathers. These include around 10 percent of mothers with a master's degree or more who have left the workplace in order to raise their children. In general, becoming a stay-at-home mother is a family decision that both parents feel is better for their child. The support of a spouse at home can help the other partner to excel at work and dedicate more hours to the job in a way that would be impossible if the stay-at-home parent was also pursuing a high-powered career.

Over half of Americans support this choice, seeing mothers as better caregivers for new babies than child care professionals or even the babies' fathers. For couples that can afford it - or those that cannot afford child care - having a stay-at-home parent may be almost a foregone conclusion. In the vast majority of cases, that will be the mother. When it is time for divorce, however, the disparity between the working parent and the one at home can lead to resentments and bitter arguments over property division and spousal support.

More family courts prefer joint custody

41461610_S.jpgWhen Missouri parents decide to divorce, many fathers may worry about losing their relationship with their children afterwards. However, an increasing number of family courts favor shared parenting and joint physical custody as a way to protect the kids' relationship with both parents. While in the past, courts tended to give physical custody to the mothers, this has changed dramatically in the past 30 years. Child development experts and family courts understand that the involvement of both parents can be particularly important for healthy growth, absent an environment of neglect or abuse.

In addition, an increasing number of fathers are actively seeking custody. Society's view of fatherhood has changed from one based more on provision of physical needs to one that encourages a close and loving bond between fathers and children. In fact, when fathers actively seek custody, they have a very good chance of at least obtaining joint custody. Child custody covers two types of matters: legal custody, including the authority to make decisions about a child's religion, education and health care, and physical custody, where the child lives most of the time. In general, most divorces begin with the presumption that legal custody will be shared between both parents.

Military divorces bring with them special concerns

40636025_S.jpgWhen members of the military in Missouri consider divorce, there may be particular issues to keep in mind. Some of the most common issues are child custody and support, spousal support and the division of military pensions and other property. Because military families often move frequently or experience long deployments, there may be other special considerations involved when making decisions about child custody. In addition, due to the frequent moves and military lifestyle, the non-military partner is often unemployed or employed in a lower-paying position outside of his or her profession.

These circumstances could make it more likely that a member of the military will need to pay child support and alimony after the divorce or that the non-military spouse will retain primary custody of the children. In a military divorce, members of the armed forces with frequent deployments are likely to receive less custody of the children so long as they remain in a position where deployments are common. It is possible to revisit the existing custody situation once circumstances have changed and deployments are no longer a significant factor.

Deciding how to claim children as dependents after divorce

20154049_S.jpgSome divorced parents in Missouri who do not discuss which one of them will claim the child as a dependent on their taxes may end up in conflict. The IRS accepts the dependent child on the return of the parent who files first and rejects the other.

In a dispute, the agency applies several criteria to determine who is eligible. Parents take precedence over anyone else in claiming the child. The parent with whom the child lives most of the time is supposed to be able to claim the child as a dependent, but if the parents share custody and do not agree on who claims the child, the IRS looks at income. The assumption is that the higher-income parent contributes more to the child's care, so that parent is usually chosen to make the claim. This is also the criteria used for claimants who are not the parents.

Military members face certain divorce stressors

48266318_S.jpgPeople in Missouri who have high-stress jobs may be more vulnerable to divorce than people with lower-stress jobs, and military members may be particularly at risk. The career website Zippia examined U.S. census data and found that people who worked at certain professions had a higher risk of getting a divorce by the age of 30. First-line enlisted military supervisors were in first place, with a 30 percent higher rate of divorce, followed by logisticians and automotive service technicians.

Military jobs were in 3 of the top 10 spots. Furthermore, all military workers tended to have a higher rate of divorce by the time they reached 30. Among the stressors for people in the military are long deployments that take them away from their families, low pay and life-threatening situations. Another study, which appeared in the "Journal of Population Economics," found a spike in divorce rates linked to couples who spent time apart.

About marital separation

41611243_S.jpgMarried couples in Missouri who want to work on repairing their marriage may decide to physically separate for a while. Physical separation can be helpful in these situations, as it can provide both parties with space and time to fully analyze their situation. However, there are some financial concerns that can arise if a physical separation lasts for more than a few months. In order for both parties to be protected financially, it is important that they know exactly what they should and should not do during a separation.

It is very important to have a clear understanding of the state of the marital finances. If one spouse has been completely responsible for managing the finances in the marriage, the other spouse may have no idea about what is being spent, earned, sold, invested or purchased, which can place that spouse in a very compromising situation.

Why parents are required to pay child support

37064094_S.jpgA noncustodial parent in Missouri may be required to pay child support to the custodial parent. Generally, the child spends most of their time living with the custodial parent. This is referred to as physical custody. Legal custody, which pertains to making decisions about the child's education, schooling and other important matters, is separate and may be shared when physical custody is not.

Child support is calculated based on several factors, including income and standards of living. It is intended to cover basic expenses, which may include school costs, extracurricular activities, food, shelter, toys, medical care and furniture the child uses. A parent can use child support payments for utilities and rent since these are part of the child's shelter. However, the recipient parent is not permitted to use the money for vacations or personal items. If there is child support money left at the end of the month, the parent should put it away in case it is needed.

Prenuptial agreements serve many purposes

89981514_S.jpgFor Missouri couples about to get married, a prenuptial agreement can be a powerful tool. However, it can be used as a financial planning tool as much as to account for what happens in the event of a divorce. Such an agreement can be helpful for any couple regardless of how old each party is or how much wealth they may have.

In addition to determining how to split assets, it can also determine how to account for debt either person brings into the relationship. As individuals get married later in life, it isn't uncommon for them to owe money to creditors prior to getting married. On average, a woman gets married for the first time at age 27 while a man gets married for the first time at age 30. During prenuptial discussions, couples should consider their current and long-term goals such as how to fund a child's college education.

Following separation, Usher files for divorce from wife

Entertainers in Missouri and all over the country aren't alone in experiencing marital stresses and strains that can lead to the end of a marriage. Case in point: Usher and his estranged wife. The singer, songwriter and actor is divorcing from his wife several months after the couple announced their separation. After six years of dating, Usher married the woman who had previously worked as his manager in 2015.

The singer dealt with previous family law matters of this nature when he divorced his previous wife. While that legal battle involved a custody dispute, Usher's most recent marriage produced no children although the singer is reportedly using the same attorney for this case. The couple legally separated in December 2017 but formerly announced it to the public in March 2018 by saying that they remained "deeply connected" to one another.

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