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St. Louis Divorce & Family Law Blog by Stange Law Firm, PC

Child support obligations can vary by state

60511156_S.jpgChild support issues can be contentious for divorced parents in Missouri and nationwide. A study conducted by Custody X Change, a smartphone app that aims to help parents manage child custody and visitation schedules, reveals that support payments can vary widely depending on the state in which the parents live. The potential recalculation of child support may be a significant factor if parents are thinking about relocating. While national statistics can vary widely, Missouri's average payments are in the second-lowest of four tiers.

There are multiple factors that go into the calculation of child support amounts. The study compared absolute numbers using the same data for each state, where payments were calculated for a hypothetical family with two children, a custodial mother and a non-custodial father, both of whom are employed full-time. Child support payments for the same family with the same income can vary by as much as $700, depending on the state in which they live. While Missouri ranked in the lower middle of the pack, other states had still lower child support assessments, such as the Rocky Mountain states and, surprisingly, New Jersey and Virginia, despite relatively high costs of living.

Divorce concerns for small business owners

51441469_S.jpgFor business owners in Missouri, divorce can come with unique concerns and issues. This is especially true on the financial level, where changes that emerge from divorce can have long-term effects that remain after the emotional and practical issues have been settled. Because business owners often combine their income and their assets and both spouses may be involved in the company, divorce presents a different challenge. However, entrepreneurs can take steps to help protect their companies and emerge successfully from the process.

In many cases, a closely-held business is the largest, most significant marital asset. It may also provide the bulk of a couple's income. Both of these factors mean that handling the business will be a significant part of the negotiations over property division. As Missouri is an equitable distribution state, there may be different fair agreements between the spouses rather than simply dividing everything in half. The relative involvement of each spouse in the business may, for example, be taken into account. At the same time, some business owners may try to hide marital assets or reduce their income artificially. Prior declarations for taxes and other documents can be used to expose attempts to keep assets out of a divorce.

Pro baseball player and wife headed for high asset divorce

9755726_S.jpgDivorce in Chicago is a difficult process, but it can be more complicated when it is a high asset divorce and involves two prominent people. Regardless of the financial circumstances and if the case is a topic in the media, it is always important for the spouses to have legal assistance with their case. A recent divorce filing between a professional baseball player and his professional singer wife is an example of the complex nature of these situations.

Chicago Cubs player Ben Zobrist and his wife Julianna have made separate court filings related to their marriage. She filed for divorce in Cook County; he filed to legally separate in Tennessee. Mr. Zobrist took a leave of absence from the team. Mrs. Zobrist has been a vocal performer at several venues including the 2016 World Series and prior to regular season ballgames.

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.

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  • Saint Louis County: 120 S. Central Ave., Suite 450, Clayton, MO 63105: Clayton Office
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