Divorce: Divorces include not just the dissolving of a marriage but may also involve the division of marital property and debts, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), child custody, and, child support. Dissolution cases can be quite complex but most importantly, they can be quite emotional. You need an attorney who will help you navigate the case. Depending upon the circumstances, you may have to go to court for your divorce if there are any disputes or, if both parties are in complete agreement, then the court could grant the divorce based upon submission of affidavits. You need to talk with an attorney familiar with process as well as the local rules of the court to know what how your case will proceed. Declaration of paternity and non-paternity: Declaration of paternity involve cases of children born to two parents who are not married or children born outside of a marriage. It is important to choose an attorney who understands how the Courts handle and view presumptions of paternity. Child Custody (all cases): In cases involving child custody, a parent is awarded sole and/or joint legal and sole and/or joint physical custody of a child. The courts have the power to grant any combination of custody depending upon what is in the best interests of the child. Custody determinations in Missouri must be based on the welfare and best interest of the minor child. In cases where abuse and/or neglect has been alleged, an attorney called a Guardian ad Litem is appointed to represent the child. It is the Guardian ad Litem*s job to act as the eyes and ears of the Court and to make recommendations regarding the best interests of the minor child. The judge has the ultimate decision-making authority as to an appropriate award of custody. Child Support: Under Missouri law, parents owe a duty of support to their children. Child support can be set administratively by the Family Support Division or by a Court in divorces, paternity cases, and, modifications. In some instances, one parent files for child support administratively with the Family Support Division or through the filing of a divorce or a paternity action In other instances, one parent applies for benefits such as TANF and the state goes after the other parent for support to recoup some of the benefits In every case, child support is calculated according to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 88.01 pursuant to a Form 14 worksheet. The amount that is calculated is generally the amount awarded unless the parties agree otherwise or the Court determines the amount to be unjust or inappropriate given the circumstances of the parties. Modifications: Parents have the ability to modify maintenance, child support, and, child custody. You may hear attorneys use the phrase *substantial and continuing change of circumstances* in connection with modifications in general but it is important to know that the standard to modify child support is different than the standard necessary to modify child custody and visitation. The failure to know the appropriate standard could lead to the dismissal of your case so it is important to choose an attorney who is familiar with modifications and which standard applies to which portion of your case. Parenting Plan: A parenting plan is a document which provides a baseline for visitation and custody. A parenting plan can be drafted based upon an agreement of the parties or can be written up by the Court after a contested hearing. The document lays out, among other things, how visitation, custody, child support, and, decisions regarding the child*s health and education are to be handled. In the healthiest of parenting partnerships, once the parenting plan has been entered by the Court, the parents essentially throw away the parenting plan and work together with regards to visitation. However, in the event that the parents cannot agree then the parenting plan is the document that they use to figure out visitation, child support, provision of insurance, etc.