Family Law is our Expertise
Our clients trust and depend on our experience to obtain the best results possible for their family law case. But our background is only the beginning. At Pratt Grisham, the client plays a key role in the family litigation process. We take time to discuss your needs and help you understand what to expect on the road ahead. We know how important the case is to you and how greatly it impacts the lives of all involved.
We have decades of experience guiding Springfield and Southwest Missouri clients through the divorce process. We walk you through the process and help you find the options that work best for you.
A divorce or dissolution is the legal termination of a marriage. The process has far-reaching effects on those involved, from the spouses, to the children, and even to their friends and family. If protecting yourself, your children, and your financial interests are your priorities, it is important for you to feel comfortable and confident with your divorce lawyer.
Clients come to us to discuss their needs and goals as they begin the divorce process. This is the framework on which we build a strategy to achieve your goals. Helping you choose the most appropriate and effective approach to your case is our priority. In some cases, divorce is the only option for both parties. For others, a legal separation is a possibility. We can help you choose what is right for your situation.
Divorce does not have to be ugly. In fact, we strongly encourage clients to consider settlement. Settling out of court can be very productive. If that is not possible, we will be prepared with guidance and advocacy as we take your case to trial. Our lawyers have decades of trial experience and are skilled litigators. Regardless of the approach, we are dedicated to the successful resolution of your case.
With experience that dates back to the 1980s, we have encountered every type of situation. Our experience includes the following types of divorce and divorce-related matters:
- Uncontested Divorce
- Complex Divorce
- High Net Worth Divorce
- Legal Separation
- Modification of Divorce
- Distribution of Property
- Payment of Debt
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Post-Judgment Modification and Enforcement
Money, Property & Support
Protecting your interests is important for your current and future financial situation. We will help you work toward a resolution that gives you and your family the resources you need to move forward.
Like most states, Missouri has set guidelines that determine child support amounts. These guidelines are the starting point for child support decisions. Whether you are paying or receiving child support, a family lawyer can help protect your interests and ensure all factors are considered in your case.
At Pratt Grisham, your needs and goals come first. We are dedicated to achieving fair and effective results in your child support case. We work closely with clients to understand the finances and needs of both parents. Using the Missouri child support guidelines, we are able to predict a likely outcome to clients. If it is in the best interests of the children and our clients, we also seek ways to deviate from the guidelines when possible.
The circumstances surrounding child support issues vary. In divorce cases with children, child support is an inherent part of the process. Some couples are able to resolve child support issues themselves or through negotiation and mediation. Others require litigation. Child support may also be established as part of a paternity action or changed in a modification case. In any situation, all facts must be accurately presented so the end result works for everyone involved.
Dividing marital assets and debts during divorce can have long-term consequences for all involved. Each asset must be characterized as either non-marital or marital property. Personal property,Â assets, and debts are all accounted for. As we walk clients through each aspect of the divorce process, we know that the process can be contentious. Our priority is to understand and achieve the property division goals of each client.
Missouri is an equitable division of property state. This means that courts divide all net marital assets and debts as equally as possible, but not necessarily 50/50. The actual division depends on various factors under the law and is determined based on what would be “fair” to all parties. Everything is subject to division: home and cars, credit card debts, most retirement benefits, stocks, collectibles and other property. With our counsel and guidance, you can ensure your rights are protected.
Complex, High-Asset Property Division
Couples with significant assets face greater challenges in the property division portion of their divorce case. This is due to the greater number of assets being divided, as well as the nature of those assets and debts. Our lawyers have the experience and knowledge necessary to protect your interests, putting you in a secure position following a divorce. We address high-asset issues involving:
- Businesses and professional practices
- Multiple real estate properties
- Employee benefits
- Valuation methods, including present and future values
- Appraisals and forensic accounting
- Tax consequences
Alimony, also called periodic maintenance or spousal support, is a primary concern for many clients facing divorce. The spouse’s ability to meet his or her reasonable needs helps determine alimony. The amount is balanced between the need of one spouse and the other spouse’s ability to pay. The earnings for both spouses are a major factor, but there are other details that are relevant to the outcome. The duration of the maintenance also needs to be fully explored. To determine whether a maintenance is fair under the law, all the facts should be presented and accounted for.
At Pratt Grisham, we aim to provide exceptional legal counsel to our clients. We are dedicated to protecting your interests and advocating for fair results in alimony disputes. We understand the alimony guidelines in Missouri, including nuances, exceptions and ambiguities. With decades of family law experience, we are prepared for your case in every possible way.
We will explain and help you understand how the court determines alimony, including analyzing factors such as:
- Income of both spouses from all sources
- Need of receiving spouse
- Ability to pay
- Length of the marriage
Because the stakes are so high, disputes involving children are always difficult. We frequently handle a broad range of issues that center on children, including which parent gets custody, establishing parenting time schedules, and assisting with the adoption process.
One of the most rewarding aspects of family law is helping families grow through adoption. Overall, adoption is a happy, positive experience for both our clients and attorneys.
At Pratt Grisham, we have both personal and professional experience with adoption in Missouri. Our firm understands how the process works from all points of view. Whether you’re starting the adoption process or are already involved, we can help.
Our experience includes:
- Domestic Adoption: assisting clients who adopt children within Missouri or the United States
- International Adoption: guiding clients through the process of adopting a child from across the world
- Stepparent Adoption: helping stepparents legalize parenting relationships that already exist
- Grandparent Adoption: protecting the rights of grandparents who raise their grandchildren
- Inter-family Adoption: representing other extended family members seeking to adopt children in their families
We understand that the needs of your kids come first. When resolving child custody and visitation matters, we work with you to develop parenting time or visitation schedules that work best for your family. If problems surface, we can help you resolve them by seeking a modification or defending against one.
In Missouri, family law courts prefer to give both parents joint legal and joint physical custody. However, this does not necessarily mean that the children will be with each parent exactly equal time.
- Joint physical custody refers to how often the kids see each parent. This could mean alternate weekends and holidays, or splitting weeks, depending what works best for your childrenÂ’s situation.
- Joint legal custody means the parents have equal access to the decision-making power regarding the children. Both parents have the right to see school and medical records and have a voice in deciding extracurricular activities, religious education, and other important decisions.
Each custody issue is unique and decisions are based on the individual circumstances. We help mothers, fathers, grandparents, and other family members learn their custody and visitation rights and what to expect from the process. We encourage settlement, but are ready to litigate any issue that cannot be resolved.
While the paternity of children born during a marriage is presumed, paternity must be established legally for children born to unmarried parents. Once established, a legal relationship is created between father and child.
Legal counsel is essential for parents involved in paternity actions. We help Missouri clients facing paternity actions involving:
- Fathers who have been cut off from their children and want to be involved
- Mothers who want to obtain child support
- Fathers who received notification that they have to pay child support for a child they did not know about
- Either party who wants to have a legally enforceable order for custody and parental rights or child support
Paternity cases can often be high-conflict and contentious. In some instances, mothers want to avoid establishing paternity because they fear the involvement of the father in the child’s life. In other cases, fathers fear being held financially responsible for children who are not theirs. The involvement of young children can further intensify the case.
We are mindful of the issues and needs on both sides of paternity actions. When representing mothers and fathers alike, our goal is to reduce uncertainty, confusion, and worry. We aim to help clients understand their rights as well as the realities of the legal system.
Resolving the case as quickly and cleanly as possible is one of our priorities. If paternity is established, we move forward by creating tailored parenting plans designed to fit the needs of the parents and children.
More Family Law Issues
We provide a full-range of family law services. Whether you need assistance setting up your case from the beginning, desire follow up after a modification, want enforcement actions, or are working through the appeals process, our team of lawyers is equipped to help you throughout the family litigation process.
Finalizing a divorce or establishing child support is not the final word on many family law matters. Often, changes or enforcement are needed to keep things on track. At Pratt Grisham, we guide clients toward new agreements and court orders that work best for the changing needs of families.
Sometimes circumstances change after the divorce decree or other family law order is finalized. A post-judgment modification is a useful way to legally change the terms of the order to reflect the current situation. Modifications are possible when there has been a change that affects:
- Child support
- Child custody
- Maintenance (if modifiable)
When looking at a modification case, judges consider changes such as job, income, relocation, illness or injury, or visitation patterns. Whether you seek to make a modification or oppose one, we will walk you through the process. Our aim is to protect your interests as well as those of your children.
If a divorce, custody, or support order is not followed, enforcement may be necessary. We will help you know your rights and the best course of action. If one parent is not honoring the child custody or visitation agreement, involving the court and law enforcement agencies may be an option. A modification can be sought, as well as contempt actions and other methods, to encourage compliance.
We generally recommend paying all support obligations through the Family Support Payment Center in Jefferson City. This provides a way for payments to be tracked and sent by a neutral, independent agency.
You have the right to appeal a judgment in your family law case. An appeal is not simply revisiting the same process and issues of your original case. It is not a “do-over.” There are strict standards and timelines within which your case must fall to be eligible for an appeal. The appellate court will review the evidence already presented and determine if there was an error made. To get a judgment reversed, we have to show the specific type of error made, such as an error of law or an abuse of discretion.
Appealable family law cases include:
- Custody determinations
- Child support awards
- Alimony decisions
- Property division issues
For many clients, the appeals process can be complex and confusing. We explain what is required in order to appeal. We will give you a realistic evaluation of what to expect, whether you are seeking the appeal or defending one. It is important to have a solid understanding of the timeline, costs, and details. During the initial consultation, we will review this with you and answer your questions.
We are here to help you. Our services are focused on your goals. We frequently conduct family law appeals in the Southern District Appellate Court and have appeared before the Missouri Supreme Court as well.
Having a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place can ease some of the frustration when going through the divorce process.
A prenuptial agreement or “prenup” is between soon-to-be spouses. It protects all the assets you had before you married. The agreement may also discuss marital assets that have yet to be accumulated. It can also set terms for the surviving spouse should the other die while the couple is still married. Because the courts favor a statement that is drawn up before the union takes place, a prenuptial agreement has many advantages.
A postnuptial agreement is a contract between spouses. This type of agreement is often used as a way to reconcile when a divorce has been filed, or at least threatened. The spouse who is willing to forego divorce plans is given commitments by the spouse who does not want the divorce. These commitments are often financial in nature.
Contact our family law attorneys
Our friendly, knowledgeable staff is ready to assist you.
Call us today at 417.883.8200.