Divorce is a difficult process, even in the best of circumstances. The process can be much more complex when the conduct of your spouse makes life challenging. While Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, certain conduct may weigh in on the judge's decisions he or she makes during your divorce.
While the divorce process can be difficult, especially if your spouse engages in seedy conduct, you do not have to face it alone. With the help of a skilled divorce attorney, your rights can be protected. At The Higher Level Legal Law Firm we will fight for your rights.
No-Fault Divorce in Missouri
Missouri is a no-fault divorce state. This means that you can basically file for divorce for any reason without a separation or waiting period, or having to prove that your spouse committed some form of misconduct during the marriage. This means that you do not have to prove abuse, adultery, or any other form of misconduct to end the marriage.
What both parties must "prove," however, is that the marriage has "no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved, and that the marriage is irretrievably broken." This is commonly known as a divorce because of "irreconcilable differences." Typically, the parties will agree in a divorce filing that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the divorce will then be granted.
What if My Spouse Will Not Agree That the Marriage is Irretrievably Broken
When one spouse will not agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the other spouse can still seek a divorce. The spouse moving for divorce must show, and the court must find that one of the following factors is true.
- That the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent.
- That the respondent behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.
- That the respondent has abandoned the petitioner for a continuous period of at least six months preceding the presentation of the petition.
- That the parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for a continuous period of twelve months immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
- That the parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least twenty-four months preceding the filing of the petition.
If the court finds that any one of the above is true, the divorce can be granted even over the spouse's objection. With the help of an experienced divorce lawyer, you can prove your case even if your spouse objects.
Conduct May Be A Part of the Divorce Decision
While the general rule is that the conduct of the parties has little to no bearing on the divorce process, there are times when the conduct of the parties matters. It can sometimes affect how the court
- divides the marital property through equitable distribution,
- awards spousal maintenance (alimony),
- awards custody of the children, and
- makes decisions on child support.
How Adultery Can Affect Your Divorce
Adultery seriously affects a marriage and is often the main reason for its end. Before Missouri adopted its "no-fault" divorce statute, infidelity could be considered in making decisions about a divorce and was a reason that a divorce could be granted. The old laws allowed a court to punish an unfaithful spouse, but Missouri, like almost every other state, no longer follows this old rule.
Generally speaking, adultery is not supposed to have an effect on the judge's decisions regarding your divorce. However, in certain circumstances, this general rule does not apply.
Use of Marital Funds During Affair
One of the main reasons that adultery can affect your divorce is if the offending spouse uses marital funds to facilitate the adultery. If your spouse spent marital funds on vacations, gifts, or hotels the court can consider this in making equitable distributions of marital assets. Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean "equal" distribution. The court may also consider marital conduct when making spousal maintenance awards, although it is typically extreme conduct that may justify consideration of conduct to make the award.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction
If your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can have significant effects on the judge's decisions during your divorce. It can also affect the strategy going into your divorce, but with the help of a knowledgeable attorney, you can go into the process informed and ready to fight for your rights.
Effects on Child Custody
A parent who is addicted to alcohol or drugs is significantly affected by that addiction. The addiction can have serious impacts on that person's ability to be a good and safe parent. Courts take drug or alcohol addiction into account in a major way. In many cases, joint or sole custody is off of the table for anyone addicted to drugs or alcohol. Visitation of the children may be limited and may be ordered to be supervised.
In extreme cases, parents who are addicted may not even be granted visitation rights. Sole custody may be awarded to the parent who is responsible and not addicted. Courts may order the addicted parent to enter into drug and alcohol counseling, with any rights to see the children of the marriage dependent on successful treatment.
Effects on Marital Assets
Usually, substance abuse is not considered in dividing assets and is not used to "punish" the addicted spouse for their misconduct. However, if the addicted spouse abused the marital finances to finance his or her drug or alcohol habit, this may be considered by the court in making distributions. In Missouri, asset distribution is "equitable," but not necessarily "equal."
If your spouse abused your finances in order to buy alcohol or drugs, you may be entitled to a greater distribution of the assets.
Effects on Spousal Maintenance
Like the effects on marital assets, financial misconduct to finance an addiction can affect spousal maintenance. While addiction normally would not enter into a judge's consideration of spousal maintenance, in these circumstances it may be considered. In fact, the Missouri statute specifically includes the conduct of the parties during the marriage as a consideration in determining spousal maintenance.
Abuse During the Marriage
If you or your children suffered abuse during the marriage as a result of your spouse, it can greatly impact the decisions which are made regarding your divorce. Abuse can occur in a number of different ways, some which may seem hard to prove without the help of a divorce lawyer with years of experience. With help, you can rest assured the court will hear about any abuse you or your children have suffered.
If your spouse has committed physical abuse against you or your children, this will be considered during the divorce process. Physical abuse often includes hitting, punching, shoving, slapping, choking, or holding a person against his or her will.
Often referred to as domestic violence, physical abuse can affect how the court decides child custody, child support, and even the division of assets, in some cases.
A spouse's emotional abuse of you or your children can have an impact on the decisions the court makes. Emotional abuse includes insults, criticisms, threats, or lies.
Emotional abuse will be considered by the court in making child custody decisions especially.
If your spouse committed sexual abuse against you, or especially if the abuse was against your children, the court will take this into account when determining child custody and visitation. Sexual abuse includes unwanted sexual touching or contact, rape, demanding sex (often through threats), or peeping.
The court will consider the safety issues associated with this kind of abuse and likely will not grant custody to a parent who has committed this kind of sexual abuse.
Living Separate and Apart - Abandonment
Abandonment can have a significant effect on your divorce, especially if the divorce is contested. Many couples live apart for a certain period of time once they decide to divorce but before they can actually get all the way through the process.
If your spouse abandoned you for at least six months before the filing of your divorce petition, this can be grounds for divorce in a contested action. The same is true if you have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for at least 12 months before filing the divorce petition or 24 months of living separate and apart under whatever circumstances.
Abandonment may be considered by the court in determining child support or equitable distribution, mostly in abandonment cases. If the abandonment affected the spouse's relationship with the children, that will be considered during any custody decisions. If the abandonment caused financial difficulty, this may be considered in asset distribution decisions.
Consult a Missouri Divorce Attorney
The effects of marital misconduct on your divorce can have a variety of different effects on your finances and the lives of you and your children. With the help of experienced Cass County divorce attorneys at Higher Level Legal, you can get a divorce with the confidence that your rights will be protected.
Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today at (816) 331-9968 for a consultation of your case.