HARRIS LAW, LLC
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SPRINGFIELD MISSOURI FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
Navigating the tricky waters of the Greene County Family Court can seem impossible at times. Greene County is one of the select Courts in the State of Missouri to have a separate “Family Court” that is dedicated to hearing divorce, parentage (such as paternity), custody, and support matters. Additionally, Greene County is one of the first Courts in Missouri to move to an e-file system that creates a paperless file or e-file designed to reduce paper, and increase efficiency. Not only has the staff at Harris Law been trained in this system, but Springfield Missouri Family Law Attorney, Joel Harris, has maintained paperless archives at his own office since 2009 and has become entirely paperless a full year prior to the Court’s transition in 2013.
Technicalities aside, Greene County Family Law is not an area of law that just any attorney can be successful in, and it is virtually impossible to handle the matters on your own with any type of confidence as to the firmness and completeness of your matter. Missouri Courts have taken exhaustive lengths to assist individuals in representing themselves, but the problem is simple, the law is constantly changing and generic forms don’t even get close to addressing all of the issues.
Never-the-less, I am often times asked the same question, “Can I represent myself?” The answer is yes, but the better questions may be, “Do you feel comfortable representing yourself?”; “Do you feel confident that the outcome you receive is the best you can do?”; “Do you feel informed enough to walk into that Courtroom and address the Court?” For many the answer is no. However, you shouldn’t feel lost; the team at Harris Law will walk you through every step of the process and ensure you are taken care of.
SPRINGFIELD MISSOURI UNCONTESTED DIVORCE ATTORNEY
An uncontested divorce is a divorce proceeding in which the parties agree to the terms of the divorce, and simply need an attorney to process the paperwork. Springfield Missouri Uncontested Divorce Attorney Joel Harris makes this process fast, simple, and inexpensive. By law, all proceedings must be on file for at least thirty (30) days before the Court may issue a Judgment. Beyond that, the process can be completed within a day in some cases. From beginning to end most uncontested divorces take between 30-45 days. Additional time may be needed for the Courts to sign the Judgment or for the parties to arrange to sign all necessary documents. Additionally, most cases can be completed without the parties ever having to take off work to go to Court.
Uncontested actions may be used in any type of Family Law matter.
1. If a mother and father have a child, but are not married, Harris Law can assist them in preparing a parenting plan and Judgment that suits not only their needs, but most importantly, the best interest of the child or children.
2. If a mother and father have a previous Judgment and simply would like to modify the child support or parenting plan provisions, Harris can assist them in making the proper changes and submitting it to the Court for approval.
Uncontested matters are by far the best, quickest, and most affordable option for parents and spouses. Making decisions for yourself is key and brings with it satisfaction that you are in control of your life. Matters that are litigated rarely result in one side getting everything they want. Matters that go to trial result in parties giving up control of their life in exchange for a Judge making those important decisions for them. Harris Law understands that parties sometimes cannot agree. In those cases we provide aggressive representation to meet your needs, but in the case of parties that can agree the uncontested action is the answer to navigating the complicated waters of the Greene County Family Court and the Missouri Divorce, Custody and Support Laws.
SPRINGFIELD MISSOURI CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEY
Greene County Family Law Courts consider many things when awarding custody to one or both parents. Missouri child custody laws and courts adhere to the best interest of the child standard above all else. When litigating child custody, Missouri courts believe that it is in the best interest of each child that they have frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents after they have separated or divorced. Because joint custody is preferred, Missouri family courts make every effort to encourage and facilitate co-parents to reduce the amount of conflict between them and to keep their children as far away from their disputes as possible.
Types of Custody
This biggest misconception about child custody is that only two types of custody exist: sole or joint. The second biggest misconception is that joint custody means equal parenting time with the child. As defined by Missouri Revised Statutes 452.375, "Custody" means joint legal custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody or sole physical custody or any combination thereof. To be more specific, Missouri Courts will determine legal custody and physical custody in each situation. For example it is possible to have joint legal, but sole physical custody. In order to understand this better it is helpful to know the definitions of each type of custody.
"Joint legal custody" means that the parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child, and, unless allocated, apportioned, or decreed, the parents shall confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority.
“Sole legal custody” designates the same rights to one parent.
"Joint physical custody" means an order awarding each of the parents significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents.
“Sole physical custody” means that the parenting plan does not allow the child/children frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents
"Third-party custody" means a third party designated as a legal and physical custodian of the minor child or children.
The mere fact that the parties may share joint physical custody does not mean that there are equal periods of parenting time. In all custody cases, involving unemancipated children under the age of seventeen (17), the Courts are required to set forth a visitation schedule for the parents to use in the event they cannot agree on a contact schedule. The contents of that parenting plan are many times the subject of the litigation between the parties.
In most cases the parents are awarded joint legal and joint physical custody. One parent’s home is designated as the child’s address for mailing and educational purposes, and the other parent will receive periods of parenting time (visitation) with the child pursuant to the parenting plan that the parties have agreed to, or in some cases, that the Court has put in place. All though not absolute, the party having visitation will many times be the one paying child support. While it is hard to talk about support and custody separately, the Courts have consistently ruled that the two are separate, and either party’s failure to comply with the parenting plan does not effect a parent’s obligation to pay support.
Child Custody Factors to Consider
In awarding custody Missouri courts may consider all relevant factors, but must consider eight (8) specific factors as set form in the Missouri Revised Statutes 452.375. Those factors are:
(1) The wishes of the child's parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
(2) The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
(3) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;
(4) Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
(5) The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community;
(6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved. If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence as defined in section 455.010 has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;
(7) The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
(8) The wishes of a child as to the child's custodian. The fact that a parent sends his or her child or children to a home school, as defined in section 167.031, shall not be the sole factor that a court considers in determining custody of such child or children.
SPRINGFIELD MISSOURI CHILD SUPPORT ATTORNEY
Missouri child support is calculated in every case involving minor children, although it is not necessarily awarded in every case. The calculation used is identified as the Missouri Form 14. Missouri Form 14 calculations are complex forms that take into consideration hundreds of factors that may affect the outcome of the calculation significantly.
Under Missouri Law, each parent shall contribute financial support to their children. Many times that support is in the form of food, shelter, clothing, etc…, but when parents are no longer living together the support line becomes gray and in most cases the court will conclude that child support is payable, typically from the parent with visitation (often times referred to as the non-custodial parent) to the parent whose address is used for mailing and educational purposes (often time referred to as the custodial parent).
The amount of child support is determined considering several factors, as set forth in Missouri Revised statutes 352.340, which include:
(1) The financial needs and resources of the child
(2) The financial resources and needs of the parents, individually and relative to each other
(3) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced. (Does not apply in legal separations or where the parents where never married)
(4) The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child’s educational needs
(5) The child’s physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time the child spends with each parent and the expenses associated with the custody and visitation arrangements
(6) The work-related child care expenses of each parent
Child support is based off a basic costs chart that is updated every five years. This chart identifies and considers basic cost of living elements such as: food, clothing, shelter, pre-college education expenses (assuming public school enrollment), normal uninsured medical costs, such as over-the counter medications, etc… The chart then identifies a combined support number based on the combined gross income of the parents. Child-rearing costs are assumed to increase as the parents’ incomes increase, and child-rearing costs are shown for one to six children.
The Form 14 apportions each parent’s monthly income in proportion to the combined income of both parents. This is sometimes modified by support payments or obligations for children not subject to the proceeding, among other things. The basic child support obligation, derived from the combined income, is inputted into Missouri’s “Form 14”. The Form 14 then adds work-related child care costs, health insurance expense, uninsured medical expenses and any extraordinary child rearing costs to arrive at a total combined child care cost. This proportion of total parental income attributable to each parent is then multiplied against the total child-rearing expense identified in the Form 14 to arrive at each parent’s child support obligation. This amount may be reduced by an adjustment that accounts for the actual time the child in question spends with the parent paying support. In addition, the parent paying support also receives credit for the amounts they spend on work-related child care expense, the child’s health insurance, uninsured medical expense, and any extraordinary child rearing costs over and above what is included in the basic support obligation.
However this is not the end. Child support may be challenged by either parent as either being too much, or too little. If a parent can prove that the actual expenses of raising the child in question are either more or less than what is estimated by the Form 14, then the Court may deviate from the presumed amount and enter a support amount more appropriate under the circumstances. This is what is sometimes called as “rebutted”. The legal standard applied to this challenge is whether the support amount is unjust or inappropriate when considering the six factors listed in Missouri Revised statutes 352.340.
If you feel overwhelmed you are not alone. Child support calculations are often times referred to as standard or black and white, but they are anything but that. Child support, like the rest of family law, does not exist within a standard set of circumstances; in real life parents under report income, or take actions to avoid paying support. Springfield Missouri Child Support Attorney Joel Harris is experienced in these matters and knows how to handle the bad-faith actions of difficult parents. While no two situations are alike, it may be possible to impute income or consider the income of a new spouse in preparing the calculation, and this is only one of thousands of situations you might find yourself in when litigating child support. Don’t take a chance; over the course of a child’s youth the implications of incorrect child support could mean tens of thousands of dollars and even result in jail time.
SPRINGFIELD MISSOURI DIVORCE ATTORNEY
Divorce actions are a cruel reality of our legal system, and no other area of law is their contained more fear and emotion in connection with the case. Not knowing where your children will live, or what your financial future looks like is horrifying. Springfield Missouri Divorce Attorney Joel Harris understands that position and has developed a client centered approach, unlike non-other in the area.
Contested Divorces – “well, not that contested”
However, before we get into the unique approach of highly contested divorce cases, you should know that not every contested case is complex. Sometimes the parties just need a little guidance and information. In those cases Springfield Missouri Divorce Attorney Joel Harris has developed quick and easy to understand approaches to helping slightly contested cases settle easily with maximum benefit to his client. This fast and affordable path is not for everyone, but can sometimes be just the answer you were looking for. Your divorce free consultation will cover all the details and you will leave the office relaxed and confident that your life is on track.
Highly Contested Divorces
While receiving his Master’s degree in communication from the University of Arkansas, Springfield Divorce Lawyer Joel Harris stumbled across a communication theory that goes to the very core of highly contested divorce litigations. The theory is called The Social Schemata Approach to Impression Formation Theory. I won’t bore you with the details, just know this: Our actions and decisions are many times based on incomplete information. The scary part is that sometimes we don’t even know the information is incomplete.
Attorney Harris has taken this simple realization and applied it to the practice of law. The litigation process develops early at Harris Law. Attorney Harris develops a strategy based off the goals you give him in the initial free consultation. He then puts in place proven techniques that will help create an end result (or social schema), that you desire. The fact is that a Judge will never be able to truly understand your position because the Judge hasn’t experienced the pieces of your life that have made you who you are. It is for that reason that every bit of information the Judge receives have a purpose. The wrong information can cause the Judges impression of you or your spouse to be wildly skewed.
Springfield Missouri Divorce Attorney Joel Harris is completely unique in his approach to litigation, and the results have been outstanding. He continuously strives to be the best divorce attorney in Springfield Missouri, and beyond. His desire to develop cutting edge techniques can benefit you in several different aspects of the Divorce Litigation including:
Custody & Visitation
Maintenance and Alimony
Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s)
Protective Orders and ExParte
Interrogatories and Depositions
Use of the Marital Home
Divorce law is not an area of law that is easily navigated, and attorneys should not attempt to dabble in the complex dealings of family law. Divorce law is one of the few areas of law that affects every aspect of your life, and as a result, a great divorce attorney will have a developed understanding of other areas of law, as well. Divorces can be easy, as stated above. However, if spouses cannot agree you have to be confident that your representation is the best available. Springfield Missouri Divorce Attorney Joel Harris has an advanced approach to divorce litigation, but that doesn’t mean it’s too expensive or unattainable for the average litigant. It will, however, require a strong trusting attorney client relationship. Set up your free consultation to learn more.