The Law Office of Kurt H King

May 22, 2013

The General Rule on Maintenance in Missouri

Filed under: Divorce,Family Law,Litigation,Support — kurthking @ 9:38 pm
Tags: ,

The recent May 7, 2013, opinion ED98727 out of the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals in In re the Marriage of John P. McMillian and Susan I. McMillian, follows established Missouri law on  how maintenance (formerly called alimony) is to be awarded by Missouri courts in divorce cases.

Here the husband enjoyed a substantial income while the wife’s income had diminished with no real signs of improvement in the future.  Not having settled the issue of maintenance, the parties tried the case to the court in a bench trial.  The trial judge awarded maintenance but limited it to three years and declared it to be non-modifiable.

The Eastern District reversed as it found no or insufficient proof that the wife’s income would increase by three years time.  Accordingly, the court of appeals ordered that such maintenance shall be paid indefinitely but that the maintenance shall be modifiable so that the husband may move to modify the maintenance award should the financial circumstances of the parties change significantly in the future.

This case illustrates Missouri case law holding that to limit the duration of maintenance there must be adequate proof that the financial situation of the parties will definitely change at a certain point in the future.   Lacking such proof, trial courts are not to set a time limit, unless the parties agree on one.

So if you want to limit the time that you will have to pay maintenance, try to reach an agreement which may well mean that you will have to sweeten the pot by offering your spouse more maintenance than the judge may order so that he/she will agree to a cut-off date.  This is a dangerous issue to take to trial so try to settle it.

 

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

Family Law–Divorce, Modifications, Child Custody, Support & Visitation, Paternity

Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

May 7, 2013

SSI For A Disabled Child Is NOT Credited Against Child Support

Filed under: Divorce,Family Law,Paternity,Support,Uncategorized — kurthking @ 5:16 pm
Tags: ,

Previous posts speak of the non-custodial parent receiving a credit against that parent’s child support obligation in the amount of Social Security Disability paid for the child on account of the obligated parent’s disability.  And, that a credit for SS Disability is not granted the obligated parent when SS Disability is paid for the child on account of the CUSTODIAL parent’s disability.

BUT what about when the child is disabled and receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments from Social Security due to the child’s own disability and not that of either parent?

Both the Western and Eastern Districts of the Missouri Court of Appeals rule that the parent paying child support is not entitled to a credit against his or her child support obligation for SSI paid due to the child’s disability.  Lewis v. Dept. of Social Services, 61 S.W.3d 248, 258 (Mo. Ct. W.D. 2001); Malawey v. Malawey, 137 S.W.3d 518, 528 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 2004).

The courts reason that SSI paid on the child’s account due to the child’s disability merely supplements in order to defray the extraordinary cost of caring for a child with disability.  Too, such SSI  is paid on account of the child, disconnected from the Social Security account of the parent obligated to pay child support.

So, a credit against child support due to SSI on account of the child’s disability is not happening in Missouri.

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

http://www.kurthking.com

Family Law–Divorce, Modification, Paternity, and Child Custody, Support, Visitation

Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation, and General Matters

March 19, 2013

50/50 Custody and Child Support in Missouri

Filed under: Custody,Divorce,Family Law,Paternity,Support — kurthking @ 8:44 pm
Tags: , ,

Times have changed since my previous post on 50/50 custody.  It is now the rule and not the exception in Missouri.  Lawmakers have moved on since the former days of one parent having primary or residential custody, with the other parent having alternate weekends, holidays, and weeks during the summer.

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

Family Law–Dissolutions, Modifications, Child Support/Custody/Visitation, Paternity

General Litigation and Matters

http://www.kurthking.com

Missouri Grandparent Visitation Under 452.402

Filed under: Custody,Divorce,Family Law,Paternity,Support — kurthking @ 8:17 pm
Tags: ,

At a Clay County family law seminar last Friday (03.15.2013), Commissioner Roberts spoke on Grandparent Visitation in Missouri under much revised statute 452.404.   Our Commissioner apparently put a good deal of work into researching the background and status of this relatively involved law.  The gist of what I took from her presentation includes:

1.  Important to select the correct tool to proceed for grandparent visitation rights.  Use the wrong one at your extreme peril and likely defeat.  Choices include: 1) Motion to Intervene into a Dissolution of Marriage case; 2) Motion to Modify where this is already a judgment of dissolution; 3) separate action for grandparent visitation where, for example, one parent is deceased and the surviving parent denies visitation.

2.  If the parents are legally married, and living together with the child (not having filed for divorce or legal separation), the grandparents CANNOT file for visitation under 452.404 even if unreasonably denied all visitation with the grandchildren.

3.  When a denial is “unreasonable,” and what visitation is “reasonable,” is undefined and far from clear.

4.  The Commissioner  reads 452.404 as requiring in all cases that unreasonable denial of visitation have run for 90 days or more.  Otherwise, the court lacks jurisdiction and the case may well be dismissed.  The statute is unclear but the Commissioner is probably right.  Simply put, if the denial is not unreasonable and has not run for at least 90 days, do not file for grandparent visitation.

5.  Step-grandparents have no right to use 452.404 but may try to proceed for visitation as a “third party” under 452.375.

6.  Older cases allowed grandparents of children born out of wedlock to obtain visitation rights.  Commissioner Roberts opines that the new version of 452.404 limits such grandparent visitation actions involving out of wedlock grandchildren to only cases where a parent dies and the grandparents of the deceased parent are unreasonably denied visitation with the grandchildren; OR, the grandchild lived with the grandparent the necessary time frames AND the grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation for 90 days or more.

7.   As a broad general rule, there is no room for grandparent visitation motions to intervene in a case to adopt the grandchildren.  Rare exception was once made where the grandparents had already been granted visitation rights (in a paternity case) which the court found were NOT terminated by the subsequent adoption case.  There is also the alternative route of seeking generic third party rights through a 452.375 action.

8.  In probate actions by a grandparent for guardianship of the grandchild, a settlement whereby the grandparents dismiss in exchange for an order of visitation rights runs considerable risk.  In Clay County, the court finds that it has NO equitable rights to order such grandparent visitation rights and 452.404 does not apply in probate settings.  Clay County would say that it cannot grant the petitioning grandparents visitation as all they can seek there is guardianship and to also be appointed conservator.    Thus, such a visitation order would be void ab initio in Clay County as was also the case in the case of In the Matter of DCO and AOD, 239 S.W.3d 714 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 2007).  Jackson County begs to differ, however, contending that it has the equitable power to order grandparent visitation in such an instance.

9.  Note that grandparent visitation is a creature of statute and cannot survive absent specific statutory authority.

10.  Again, 452.404 does NOT apply to probate proceedings.

11.  A mere 2 hours every 90 days has been found to be sufficient grandparent visitation.  Is a grandparent visitation case worth the time and trouble?

12.  Commissioner Roberts provided a good working outline on this subject and presumably would share it with interested counsel.

 

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

Family Law–Dissolutions, Modifications, Child Support/Custody/Visitation, Paternity

General Litigation and Matters

http://www.kurthking.com

February 25, 2013

Using A QDRO To Collect Back-due Child Support Or Maintenance Under Missouri Law

Filed under: Family Law,Support — kurthking @ 5:47 pm
Tags: , ,

Missouri case law acknowledges the right of a former spouse to apply to the court for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to collect past-due child support or maintenance.  See the Eastern District’s decision in Baird v. Baird, 843 S.W.2d 388 (1992), which without much ado simply recognizes that the federal ERISA authorizes such division of retirement accounts by QDRO in connection with child support and maintenance.  That court rejected the notion that allowing the use of a QDRO to collect a child support arrearage improperly redivides the marital property.

Collection of child support or maintenance by QDRO would seem to work best if the retirement asset is a 401(k) or equivalent from which a lump sum distribution may be made to pay off the child support or maintenance arrears.  If the retirement asset is a pension that pays “x” dollars of benefits each month after retirement, a lump sum distribution may not be possible and thus collection may not begin for years and have to run for many months or even years before the arrears is fully collected.

But in the right situation, an application for a QDRO may be the perfect tool to collect child support or maintenance.

 

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

Family Law–Dissolution of Marriage; Modifications; Child Custody, Support, Visitation; Paternity

General Litigation, Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation

http://www.kurthking.com

 

February 23, 2012

Court Decides Not to Recognize an Equitable Claim for Child Custody by Nonparent

Facts:  man believes he is the father of the child born to the lady who lives with him;  man supports the child financially; he later files paternity case and discovers the child is not his–thus no relationship to the child by blood, adoption, or marriage. 

Regardless, guy petitions the court for custody rights to the child.   The court of appeals ultimately denies the father’s claim for equitable custody rights to the child as the man is a nonparent.

The court’s decision avoids opening Pandora’s box to address the almost infinite custody, visitation, support, and inheritance/probate issues that would arise once we step outside of the traditional family box formed by ties of blood or by legal adoption. 

See In Re The Matter of T.Q.L., M.M.A. v. L.L., and the Unknown Father, decided by the Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals in Slip Opinion SD31142, filed 02-14-2012.  It remains to be seen whether the decision will be appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court or if that court will take the case for its review.

However, it is not difficult to see how the decision impacts non-tradional family structure.  For instance, custody claims by a gay person against his or her partner who either gave birth to the child or adopted the child appear to be foreclosed as such a person seeking custody rights is a “nonparent.”  Consider too surrogate mother situations and the battles that could arise in that arena.

And, should a “nonparent” same sex partner obligated to pay child support by a sperm donor organization’s agreement or state statute for a child born to her mate have custody or visitation rights to the child?  Is it fair to have to pay child support but not have custody or visitation?

(Missouri statutes 210.824 and 193.085(9) address only instances where the married woman, with her husband’s official consent, is Artificially Inseminated with another man’s sperm under the supervision of a licensed physician.  In such cases, the husband and wife are both considered by law as the natural paents of the child.  And, the sperm donor is “treated in law as if he were not the natural father of a child thereby conceived.”)

The pressure on the law from same sex relationships and nonparent claims of custody and visitation piles on from many directions and varied formations.  This court’s limitation of custody to parents seems a sound course to maintain but there are sure to be hard cases where the nonparent is the only adequate person to have custody of the child.  What happens when denying the nonparent leaves the child with a parent who is unfit or nearly so?  Does the child fall to foster care and leave a “second” mom or dad in the wake?

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

www.kurthking.com

Child Custody & Support,  Paternity,  Divorce & Modification

Bankruptcy, Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation

January 26, 2012

7 Things to Remember in Missouri Divorce Cases

7 legal tibits that make a difference–

1.  Social Security benefits, including disability, shall not be divided in a Missouri Dissolution of Marriage case.  (section 169.572 of Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri)

2.  Likewise, Missouri Public Teachers Retirement benefits, which largely take the place of Social Security benefits for such teachers, shall not be divided in a Missouri divorce case.  (section 169.572 also)

3.  For much the same reason, Tier I of railroad retirement basically pays railroad workers what they would have received in Social Security benefits and therefore is not to be divided by the court in a divorce case.  Federal law, 45 U.S.C. section 231m, exempts Tier I benefits from the property a divorce court may divide.   The Railroad Retirement Board will not honor a court dissolution of marriage judgment/order that divides Tier I.  Only Tier II may be divided.

4.  Military disability benefits  are non-marital property of the soldier that the court shall not divide in a divorce case.  But ordinary military retirement benefits are marital property which may be dividedImportant:  the military spouse may elect to receive military disability benefits and if so the ordinary military retirement benefits are reduced dollar for dollar.  A legitimate reason for taking disability instead of ordinary retirement is that the disability benefits are not taxed as income to the receiving spouse.  Settlement agreements should prohibit the military spouse from electing to take disability benefits instead of ordinary retirement, or to indemnify the other spouse if the military spouse so elects and consequently reduces the amount of ordinary military retirement available to the other spouse.  (Morgan v. Morgan, 249 S.W.3d 226, 230 (Mo. Ct. App. W.D. 2008)

5.  In a Missouri divorce case, court cannot validly order a spouse to maintain a life insurance policy(s) to support the chilren in the event of the death of the spouse charged with paying child support, UNLESS the parties so agree [most likely in a settlement agreement in the divorce proceeding].  (Weiss v. Weiss, 954 S.W.2d 456, 459 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 19970); Wheeler v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 999 S.W.2d 279, 287-88 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 1999))  But court may order a spouse to maintain life insurance for other reasons such as to secure the payment of maintenance (formerly called alimony).

6.  Social Security paid for a child due to the non-custodial parent’s  disability may be credited against his/her child support obligation.  (Wallace v. Wallace, 269 S.W. 3d 479 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 2008); Weaks v. Weaks, 821 S.W.2d 503, 506 (Mo. 1991))

7.  Social Security paid for a child due to the custodial parent’s disability shall  not be a direct dollar for dollar credit against the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation.  (Gerlach v. Adair, 211 S.W.3d 663, 667 (Mo. Ct. App. W.D. 2007).  But the court may still consider–not necessarily as a full dollar for dollar credit but simply as one of many possible factors–that the child has income of his/her own in the form of Social Security benefits.  (See Missouri Child Support Guidelines at Section G, Comment (1).)

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

Divorce & Modification, Child Custody & Modification, Paternity

Bankruptcy, Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation

www.kurthking.com

January 24, 2012

Credit Given Against Child Support for Social Security due to Disability of Non-Custodial Parent

Filed under: Family Law,Support — kurthking @ 10:10 pm
Tags: ,

Is a disabled non-custodial parent with the duty to pay child support entitled to a credit for Social Security paid “to” the child due to the disability of that non-custodial parent?  Yes in Missouri.

In Wallace v. Wallace, the court of appeals dealt with a situation where mother had residential custody and the disabled father owed child support.  Their minor child received Social Security due to the father’s disability.  The court ruled that the Social Security disability paid to the child should be credited against the amount of child support owed by the father.  269 S.W.3d at 479-81, headnote 4 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 2008).  In so ruling, the court of appeals followed the earlier Missouri Supreme Court decision in Weaks v. Weaks, 821 S.W.2d 503, 506 (1991).

So, the child’s Social Security disability received due to disability of the non-custodial parent reduces the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation. 

However, this credit does not apply if the Social Security is paid to the child due to the custodial parent’s disability.  (See Adams v. Adams, 108 S.W.3d 821, 830 (Mo. Ct. App. W.D. 2003)

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

Family Law, Child Custody & Support, Divorce & Modification, Paternity

Bankruptcy, Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation

www.kurthking.com

 

December 19, 2011

No Credit For Child’s Social Security Disability $ If Due To Disability of Custodial Parent

Filed under: Custody,Divorce,Family Law,Support — kurthking @ 10:24 pm
Tags: , , ,

Possible scenario:  Mom has  residential physical custody of a child who receives Social Security Disability each month due to the disability of the mother who cannot work.  Father wants a credit for the amount of the child’s disability checks in order to reduce his child support obligation under Missouri law. 

Answer: No reduction for father becasue the disability money comes to the child because of the disability of the parent with custody–mom. 

But the answer may be yes if the father was the disabled person and the child received disability payments due to the non-custodial father’s disability.

The Missouri case on point is Gerlach v. Adair, 211 S.W.3d 663, 667 hn.8 (Mo. Ct. App. W. D. 2007).

However, there is another angle in through the back door for the non-custodial father to try.   That is that the Missouri Child Support Guidelines are just guidelines from which the court may deviate for good reason.  And one factor which could cause a deviation is that the court is supposed to consider the child’s income in deciding how much child support to order. 

One practical approach to this scenario was experienced in a Platte County, Missouri, court where the judge added the amount of money the child received each month due to the custodial mother’s disability, back into the total income of the mother which resulted in a small but fair discount in the amount of child support that the court ordered the non-custodial, non-disabled father to pay.

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

www.kurthking.com

Bankruptcy, Child Custody & Support, Divorce & Modification, Family Law, Personal Injury, Missouri Workers’ Compensation

November 10, 2011

Divorce and Orders regarding Life Insurance for the benefit of the Children of the Marriage in Missouri

Filed under: Divorce,Family Law,Support — kurthking @ 4:47 pm
Tags: , , ,

The question comes up about whether the court the non-custodial parent who is ordered to pay child support in a divorce case in Missouri can legally be ordered to maintain life insurance coverage on his/her life to pay out to or for the minor children of the marriage should the non-custodial parent die. 

Right now, and the law may change on this in the future, the answer is that the court can make that order in a judgment dissolving the marriage IF the parties so agree in a settlement agreement which is part of the judgment and the parties ordered to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement.  See Wheeler v. McDonnell Douglas Corporation, 999 S.W.2d 279, 287-88, hns. 9-11 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 1999); and, Weiss v. Weiss, 954 S.W.2d 456, 459, hn. 6 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 1997).

However, if there is no settlement agreement, then the court generally CANNOT validly order the non-custodial parent to maintain life insurance for the benefit of the children of the marriage.  The rationale is that such an order makes the non-custodial parent pay child support past the date of his/her death which is contrary to Missouri law.

But, note that a court may order a spouse to maintain life insurance with the other spouse as beneficiary to secure that spouse’s obligation to pay a particular sum of maintenance over time or perhaps to satisfy some other marital obligation as ordered by the court.  This type of life insurance order may be used because it is not one which has do with child support.

In sum, the rule now in Missouri (other states may handle this differently) is that the court cannot validly order the non-custodial parent to maintain life insurance for the benefit of the children unless the parties so agree in a written settlement included or perhaps incorporated in the court’s divorce judgment.

It would also be a good idea to provide (and get a receipt in person or by Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested) a copy of the judgment and settlement agreement to the insurance company to put them on notice in case the non-custodial parent tries to change the beneficiary or cancel/non-renew the policy.

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 816.781.6000, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

www.kurthking.com

Bankruptcy, Child Support & Custody, Divorce & Modification, Family Law

Personal Injury, Missouri Workers’ Compensation

« Previous PageNext Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.