Domestic

Divorce mediation is ideal for spouses that can put their differences aside and their children, finances, and lives first.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process in which the parties hire one lawyer, who represents neither party, but rather guides the parties through a process of resolving all issues in their divorce without going to court or being involved in litigation. Typically this includes having the lawyer prepare all documents required to finalize the divorce once an agreement has been reached.

Mediation can be a good fit for a couple that wants to preserve some type of a relationship moving forward, not perhaps for themselves, but for their children’s sake. It’s a process that can be less fraught with emotion and have less conflict allowing spouses to come out the other end and co-parent their children as they proceed forward with their lives.

Mediation is a superior, comprehensive approach to addressing all areas of divorce. There are 4 basic categories that mediation effectively addresses:

• Division of Debts & Assets: Credit cards, retirement accounts, investments, real estate holdings, dividing family-owned businesses
• Parenting: All aspects of a parenting plans (previously called custody) including parenting schedules, decision-making, ordinary and extraordinary expenses, communication, vacation & travel, and college expenses
• Support: Child Support and Spousal Support
• Document Preparation: A divorce proceeding involves the use of many court approved forms. During mediation, we assist the parties in drafting a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding / MOU in session that the parties assist in editing. The document addresses all substantive points related to division of debts and assets, parenting plans, child support and maintenance.

All of these issues can be quickly addressed in mediation at a total cost substantially less than a litigated divorce. While Missouri Courts do not routinely order mediation when there are disputed issues prior to the final hearing, it sometimes happens or it may be suggested to the parties by the court, whether or not the parties are represented by attorneys. So why not begin with mediation prior to hiring an attorney to test whether agreement is possible? Virtually all issues can be addressed and all of the paperwork completed, during the mediation process, for a fraction of the cost of a typical initial retainer you would pay to an attorney for a litigated divorce.

The Financial Case For Divorce Mediation

While there are certainly divorcing spouses who can barely stand to be in the same room with one another, a large number of those going through a divorce will have a better outcome if the case is resolved through compromise and agreement rather than a long, drawn-out litigation. Mediation allows this to happen through the facilitation of resolutions which both parties deem to be fair and equitable. In fact, there are numerous advantages of mediation over court litigation when resolving disputes among divorcing couples.

Many of those who have successfully gone through divorce mediation note it is a much less expensive alternative to litigation. The costs of litigation are generally an unknown until the case settles. At that time the spouses may be shocked at the level of fees they have incurred through attorney’s fees, expert witnesses, depositions, preparation of the case for trial, filing motions back and forth and many other things associated with divorce litigation. Mediation, on the other hand, allows couples to have a good estimate of the number of hours it will take to resolve the issues at hand. The ultimate goal of mediation is to resolve the issues quickly, and this translates to financial savings.

The Human Impact of Litigation and Case For Divorce Mediation

Mediation is generally better for the children involved, as it allows the couple to make decisions which are in the best interests of the entire family in a non-contentious manner. Children can be damaged by hearing their parents argue and say things to one another that children should not hear. Many parents who end up litigating their divorce are not hesitant to say ugly things about the other parent in front of the children. Parents who make a conscious decision to mediate their divorce are also more likely to be aware of ensuring the children are not privy to contentious behavior between the parents.

In the end, spouses who go through divorce mediation are much more likely to be satisfied with the final results. During a litigated divorce, neither spouse is likely to get what they asked for, leaving at least one of them angry and bitter over the outcome. When the final award is totally unexpected, that anger and bitterness only increase. Such a decision can leave that spouse feeling powerless and victimized. He or she may feel the judge was biased, and the settlement was far from fair or equitable. Mediation limits the feelings of victimization, even when the financial settlement is relatively modest.

For those who must have a functional co-parenting relationship into the future, divorce mediation helps build, practice and reinforce healthy ways to resolve conflict and work effectively with your co-parent.

Wes Kozeny, Esq. is a divorce mediator pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 88. Contact him for further information and find out if mediation is a good choice for your divorce.

Wesley T. Kozeny, Esq.
Direct: 314-744-5680
Email: wkozeny@km-law.com
Three Methods of Divorce

Divorce is never easy however you get to that result, but a skilled divorce attorney can make all the difference in the cost, length, and outcome of your divorce proceedings. There are three general methods of getting divorced:

Uncontested Divorce: In an uncontested divorce, one spouse retains an attorney who represents only that spouse. The spouses agree on how to divide all property and on child custody matters. The attorney draws up the papers in accordance with the spouses’ decisions, files all necessary documents, and represents one spouse at the divorce hearing. Sometimes a hearing is not even necessary.
Contested Divorce: In a contested divorce, husband and wife cannot agree on how to divide their property or custody of the children. Both husband and wife retain separate attorneys who negotiate for them in order to settle the case. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case is set for trial.
Mediation: A mediated divorce is one in which the divorcing couple attends sessions together with a trained mediator who facilitates their decision-making. The couple uses these sessions to discuss how to divide property, parenting responsibilities, and future support, if needed. Mediation allows the parties to make their own decisions and stay in control of the outcome of their divorce. Usually, neither party needs to personally appear in court. At least one party must hire an outside attorney to file the completed mediation documents at the courthouse. The other party has the option of hiring his or her own attorney to review the completed mediation documents before filing them at the courthouse.

A contested divorce (litigated) is likely to be the most costly way to get your divorce. It will be the most costly, stressful, damaging and lengthy process. If the divorcing parties have any regard for children, mental health, and preservation of your assets that will be divided in the divorce – avoid this option if at all possible.

The most cost effective, least stressful, least damaging and quickest approach is going to be Mediation. If it is even remotely possible that this will work for you, you should give it a try.

Whichever method of divorce you decide is best for you, we can help. Contact us at:

Attorney Direct Phone Email States of Licensure
Wesley T Kozeny 314-744-5680 wkozeny@km-law.com MO,KS,NE,OK,TX,IL,NY
Shawn Scharenborg 314-372-8998 sscharenborg@km-law.com MO,KS
Parents can establish formal child custody and visitation agreements in one of two ways:

By Agreement: Ideally both parents will come to an agreement regarding visitation so that each parent's schedule can accommodate their visitation rights. Some states (like Illinois) require the parents to meet with a court mediator in hopes that they will come to an agreement. Missouri does not mandate mediation, and generally leave it up to the parents and their attorneys. The courts do not usually interfere with a mutual agreement. Please see the tab regarding mediation on this page for more information about our services in this regard. Mediation is a voluntary option in Missouri.
By Court Order: If an agreement is not reached, the court will hold a hearing to determine an appropriate visitation schedule. Both parents will have a short time to present their case. Because the judge is not familiar with the intricacies of the parents’ work, social, and commuting schedule, the judge may impose a visitation schedule that is not ideal for either parent. We don’t recommend giving up the ability to determine your own visitation schedule in your Parenting Plan.

What Is Child’s Best Interests Standards?

The court will generally consider the “Child’s Best Interest Standard” when considering the custody and visitation rights of a child:

• The child’s background including age, gender, and mental and physical health
• The child’s own preference, if they are of a certain age of maturity, usually 12-14 years or older
• Environmental considerations such as quality of schools, community safety, and extra-curricular opportunities
• The health and maturity of each parent
• Each parent’s ability to provide financially and emotionally for the child
• The degree of each parent’s willingness to encourage contact between the child and the other party
• Whether there are any siblings or important family members involved
• Social background and lifestyle of each parent

What Are the Different Types of Custody Arrangements?

There are various types of child custody. The most common:

• Legal Custody – Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make decisions about the rearing of the child. This includes issues such as education, religion, medical care, and discipline. Courts generally prefer joint legal custody, allowing the parents to share these rights.
• Physical Custody – Physical Custody is the right of a parent to have a child live with him or her. Most courts order joint physical custody, but the exact time-split is often something other than 50/50.
• Sole Custody – A sole custody arrangement provides one parent with total custody rights, allowing the other parent only visitation rights.
• Joint Custody – A joint custody arrangement allows the parents to synchronize their schedules and share decision-making responsibility over the child.
• Bird’s Nest Custody – A bird’s nest custody arrangement occurs where the child remains in one home and the parents rotate in and out of the home and take turns caring for the child.

What Are Child Visitation Rights?

In a divorce and child custody setting, child visitation rights refer to the rights of the non-custodial parent in seeing and spending time with the child. The terms of child visitation are usually set forth in a visitation schedule. This would be a court order outlining the specific circumstances under which the child may be visited. For example, the court may choose to designate alternating weekends during which the parent can spend time with their child.

How Do I Modify of Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements?

Child custody and visitation agreements can be modified with the consent of both parents or by court order. Any portion of the agreement can be changed so long as it is consistent with the best interests of the child. Typical justifications for an alteration in child custody or visitation are:

• Relocation: Some states allow parents with physical custody to relocate no matter what distance is involved.
• Substantial change in circumstances: Anything significant that disrupts the stability of the child's life (i.e. parent's loss of job, relocation, illness) may warrant modification.
• Change in lifestyle: Modification is justified if substantial changes in a parent's lifestyle threaten or harm the child.

Family courts prefer not to alter visitation arrangements as this can cause new problems, but if a proper justification arises the court will grant a modification.

Attorney Direct Phone Email States of Licensure
Wesley T Kozeny 314-744-5680 wkozeny@km-law.com MO,KS,NE,OK,TX,IL,NY
Shawn Scharenborg 314-372-8998 sscharenborg@km-law.com MO,KS
Have you experienced a substantial change in circumstances? Various parts of your divorce decree may be subject to modification.

There are situations that may arise causing change in a person’s life and make a modification necessary:

Employment and salary change
Other significant increase or decrease in income
Serious illness, disability, or impairment
Change in a child’s needs
Change in a former spouse’s needs


If you feel that you have experienced a substantial change in your life circumstances requiring a modification to your divorce decree, we can certainly help with this.

Attorney Direct Phone Email States of Licensure
Wesley T Kozeny 314-744-5680 wkozeny@km-law.com MO,KS,NE,OK,TX,IL,NY
Shawn Scharenborg 314-372-8998 sscharenborg@km-law.com MO,KS
What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a contract, entered into before marriage, setting out the rights of each spouse in the event of divorce or death. The major benefit of a prenuptial agreement is that it avoids litigation later, because you and your spouse have already agreed on how to divide your property if your marriage ends. Without a prenuptial agreement, Missouri divorce laws will determine how your property is divided, which can result in a long court battle.

Who Should Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

Prenuptial agreements are common among:

• people with children from a prior marriage who want to protect their children’s interests
• people who have been through a messy divorce previously and want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and
• people with significant assets.

Even if you don’t belong to one of these groups, a prenuptial agreement might still be right for you if you want to decide for yourself what happens to your property. If you don't create a prenuptial agreement, state law will determine how your property is divided, rather than you and your partner making these decisions. What Issues Can a Missouri Prenuptial Agreement Cover?

In general, prenuptial agreements can cover any issues relating to property, assets, and debts belonging to you or your future spouse.

For example, your prenuptual agreement may cover some of the following issues:

• how premarital assets will or will not be combined or divided
• how to pay premarital debts
• how the marital home and marital property is divided
• whether gifts, trusts and/or inheritances will be considered marital or separate property
• whether either spouse will receive alimony (also called “maintenance”) in the event of divorce
• how death benefits and/or life insurance will be divided, and
• how matters such as medical care, disability insurance, and long-term medical care will be dealt with.

Can a Prenuptial Agreement Determine Child Custody and Child Support in Missouri?

Future child custody and child support arrangements can’t be determined in a prenuptial agreement in Missouri, as a matter of public policy. These decisions must be based on the best interests of the child, at the time of divorce.

How Can I Ensure my Prenuptial Agreement Is Enforceable in Missouri?

Unlike many states, Missouri has not adopted the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act (UPAA). Rather, the enforceability of prenuptial agreements in Missouri is guided by statutes and case law. As a general matter, a prenuptial agreement must be in writing and signed by both you and your future spouse to be enforceable. Under Missouri court cases, a prenuptial agreement must meet two main requirements to be enforceable. First, you and your future spouse must enter into the agreement “freely, fairly, willingly, understandingly, in good faith, and with full disclosure.” Second, the agreement must be “conscionable.”

The first requirement relates to the circumstances surrounding the signing of the agreement. To be valid, the following circumstances should exist when you sign the agreement:

• you and your future spouse should have access to your own lawyers
• there should be enough time between the presentation of the agreement and the wedding date to allow for you and your future spouse to discuss and revise the agreement
• you and your future spouse should fully disclose all assets and their values to each other (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.120)
• you and your future spouse should be fully informed of your legal rights (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 474.220), and
• you and your future spouse should be of relatively equal bargaining positions (that is, relatively equal in age, sophistication, education, employment, and experience).

The requirement that the agreement is “conscionable” deals with the equality of the actual terms of the agreement. For a prenuptial agreement to be conscionable, the terms must be fair. A prenuptial agreement would be unfair or “unconscionable” if it left one party with everything and the other party with nothing, for example.

There are a few things you can do to make your prenuptial agreement more likely to be enforced. First, you and your future spouse should use separate lawyers. This shows that both of you signed the agreement voluntarily, understood what you were signing, and knew your rights at the time. Second, it’s best to sign the agreement well before the wedding date. This serves as evidence that neither party was pressured to sign by the fast-approaching “big day.” Third, both you and your future spouse should fully disclose the kind and value of all assets and debts you each have (for example, a bank account of $10,000 and real estate worth $50,000). Failing to fully disclose assets has often resulted in prenuptial agreements being found unenforceable by courts.

Attorney Direct Phone Email States of Licensure
Wesley T Kozeny 314-744-5680 wkozeny@km-law.com MO,KS,NE,OK,TX,IL,NY
Shawn Scharenborg 314-372-8998 sscharenborg@km-law.com MO,KS
Whether you are the victim of domestic violence or accused of committing domestic violence, this is a very serious matter and you need legal assistance as soon as possible.

Protecting You from Domestic Violence in St. Louis, Missouri

If you or your children are victims of domestic violence, your health and potentially your life are at risk. We can help you seek protection through the courts by seeking an Order of Protection or an Adult Abuse Order. Domestic violence is a serious matter. If you are being threatened by a family member or stalked by someone, get help as soon as possible. There are many resources available in addition to legal assistance. Please see our Resource tab on this web page for more information.

Providing Immediate Protection

After you request an Order of Protection from the Court, the judge will enter a temporary (ex parte) order until the alleged offender is served with the order and hearing date. This ex parte order will be in effect until the court conducts a full hearing on the matter. The temporary order is in place to keep you and your children safe while you await the final Order of Protection from the court.

Connecting You through Our Network of Professionals

As indicated above, please see our Resource tab on this web page for emergency resources. We can also put you in touch with appropriate professionals who can join our team in protecting you and your loved ones.

Have You Been Served with an Order of Protection?

If you have been served with an Order of Protection, it is essential that you seek legal counsel so that you have a complete understanding of the restrictions of the temporary order and to retain legal counsel to represent you at the scheduled hearing.

Attorney Direct Phone Email States of Licensure
Wesley T Kozeny 314-744-5680 wkozeny@km-law.com MO,KS,NE,OK,TX,IL,NY
Shawn Scharenborg 314-372-8998 sscharenborg@km-law.com MO,KS
Adoption

Adoption is a legal means for a single person or a couple to become the legal parents of a child. Once a child is legally adopted, the adoptive parents gain all of the same legal rights to the child as if they were the biological parents.

There are four main types of Missouri adoptions and each type of adoption has specific procedures that must be carefully followed.

Relative or step parent adoptions normally occur when one biological parent has remarried and the new spouse would like to become a legal parent to the child of the biological parent. This may occur by the non-custodial biological parent voluntarily relinquishing their rights; terminating the non-custodial biological parents’ rights if he or she is unfit, unwilling, or unable to care for the child; or if the other biological parent is deceased or unable to be found.

Independent adoptions occur when the birth parents and adoptive parents arrange for the adoption with the help of an adoption attorney or counselor. In an independent adoption, the attorney or counselor may be more involved than with other types of adoptions, where the adoption attorney may be used primarily for filing the legal documents necessary to finalize the adoption. An agency would still be used to perform the home study to make sure the adoptive parent or parents are suitable. Adoption agencies can also provide supervision and follow-up after the child is placed with a family.

Adoptions through an adoption agency occur when birth parents have relinquished their parental rights and transfer custody to an adoption agency. The agency then works to place the child in a caring and loving home. In these types of adoptions the birth parents may or may not be involved in the placement of the child.

Foster care of public agency adoption usually involves older children that have been in foster care for an extended period of time. Often time adoptive parents will become foster parents prior to completing an adoption. These adoptions are supervised by the Missouri Department of Social Services and can involve children that have been the victims of emotional or physical abuse.

If you are thinking about adopting a child, you should consult with an experienced adoption attorney who can answer your questions and provide you with information regarding how to proceed.

Attorney Direct Phone Email States of Licensure
Wesley T Kozeny 314-744-5680 wkozeny@km-law.com MO,KS,NE,OK,TX,IL,NY
Shawn Scharenborg 314-372-8998 sscharenborg@km-law.com MO,KS
NATIONALLY AVAILABLE

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233

MISSOURI

* denotes - 24 Hour Crisis Line

COUNSELING
*Alive – 314-993-2777
Woman’s Place – 314-645-4848
Fortress Outreach – 314-653-1500
*Safe Connections – 314-531-2003
*Live Source Consultants – 314-524-0686
*YWCA Sexual Assault Response Team – 314-531-7273
Crime Victim Advocacy Center – 314-652-3623

EDUCATION & SUPPORT
Redevelopment Opportunities for Women – 314-588-8300

HOUSING
Housing Resource Center – 314-802-5444
Housing & Urban Development – 314-418-5400
St. Louis County – 314-428-3200
Beyond Housing – 314-862-0639

SHELTERS

St. Louis City & County
Fortress Outreach – 314-381-4422
*St. Martha’s Hall – 314-533-1313
*Women’s Safe House – 314-772-4535
Kathy J. Weinman Center – 314-423-1117

St. Charles

*Bridgeway Women’s Center – 636-946-6854
Crisis Nursery – 314-786-3201

Jefferson County

A Safe Place COMTREA – 636-931-2700

ILLINOIS

Oasis Women’s Center – Alton – 618-465-1978
Violence Prevention Center (Belleville/Granite City) – 800-924-0096
Phoenix Crisis Center – 618-802-9351 or 618-451-1008

OKLAHOMA RESOURCES

Oklahoma State Safe line (24 hour domestic violence hotline) 1-800-522-7233
Oklahoma Coalition against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault https://www.ocadvsa.org/get-help
The Women’s Resource Center in Norman, OK http://wrcnormanok.org/
YWCA Crisis Services http://www.ywcaokc.org/

KANSAS

*Safehome - http://www.safehome-ks.org/
*Friends of Yates - http://www.friendsofyates.org/
Kansas City Against Violence Project - http://www.kcavp.org/

NEBRASKA

Nebraska Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-876-6238
Women’s Center for Advancement Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Program 402-345-7273
Catholic Charities of The Archdiocese of Omaha 402-558-5700
The Humble Lily 402-933-3366
Nebraska Domestic Violence Coalition 402-476-6256


Disclaimer

This website is for informational purposes and is not intended to be advertising. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Contacting this law firm does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship. Do not send any information regarding your case until you have spoken to one of our attorneys and an attorney-client relationship is established. This firm is a debt collector and any information we obtain from you will be used for that purpose.