Family Law

Family strife can be the most stressful circumstance that one can face.  Our goal is to make bad situations better by providing experienced and personalized legal services.  At Rudman & Smith we provide professional legal services for the full range of family law including divorce, legal separation, child custody, child support, modifications, guardianships, adoptions, and orders of protection.  

Often our clients are facing difficult situations, and our goal is to stabilize our client’s situation, explain all the of legal options available, provide a road map for success and provide the legal services necessary to meet our client’s goals.  One size does not fit all in family law disputes, and a client must not only know what their rights are, but be able to comfortably communicate with their attorney.  

We practice Family Law in several jurisdictions including St. Louis County, Missouri, St. Louis City, Missouri, St. Charles, Missouri and Jefferson County, Missouri.  We are happy to provide you with a free consultation to inform you of our affordable rates and ensure that we are the right attorneys for you.


Divorce

Divorce law can be very complex, and an attorney who can inform you of your legal rights and options as well as advocate for you is highly advisable. There are certain requirements that one must meet to file for divorce, and a divorce may be brought on the claim by just one spouse that the marriage is irretrievably broken (whether the other spouse agrees or disagrees).

A spouse can also bring more specific grounds for divorce including, without limitation, adultery, abuse, and/or abandonment.  In every divorce case the assets and debts of the marriage must be determined and distributed. Additionally, it must be determined whether a spouse can meet their respective financial needs without the contribution of the other spouse for what is known as “maintenance,” which many confuse with “alimony”.

If there are children of the marriage then legal custody, physical custody and child support issues must be addressed. There may be occasions that a Guardian Ad Litem will be appointed to assist the court in a determination of legal and physical custody. Under certain situations attorney fees can be awarded in favor of one party to be paid by another. A divorce can involve very complex matters of evaluation assets and debts such as real estate, taxes, personal property, partnership interests, trusts, pensions, 401ks, IRA’s and certain assets will require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Determinations of whether certain assets and/or debts are separate property or marital property can often be issues in a divorce that have a significant impact upon the assets awarded and the debts retained. 

If you have been served in a divorce action you have only a short period of time to respond; otherwise you can receive a default judgment against you. In order to preserve your legal rights contact Rudman & Smith well before thirty days after being served. Not all divorce cases have to go to trial, and often cases are resolved by informal or formal mediation and a Marital Dissolution Settlement Agreement can be entered into by the parties.

A divorce case can be contested or non-contested but all cases will have to be approved by the appropriate court. At Rudman & Smith we are well experienced in zealously advocating successfully for our clients’ interests in or out of court. Contact us for a free consultation to inform you of your rights and options.


Legal Seperation

A legal separation case is similar to a divorce case with the exception that it is not alleged that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If both parties concur to proceed with a legal separation all other matters of dividing assets and/or debts, maintenance, attorney fees, child custody and support if applicable are required to be addressed.

Additionally, a decree of Legal Separation can be changed to a Divorce Decree if desired. If you are interested in a Legal Separation contact us for your free consultation to explore your options.


Paternity, 
Custody & Child Support

If a child is born prior to a marriage or a child is born and the Mother and Father are not married then a Paternity suit can be filed to establish paternity, custody and child support. The ins and outs of custody, visitation, and child support are complex and fact-specific.

Certain cases warrant a DNA test, and certain custody disputes may warrant the appointment of Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to assist the court to determine whether the parties shall exercise joint legal and physical custody or whether one party shall have sole legal and physical custody. There can often be disputes as to what is in the child’s best interest, and there are few things more important to ensure than a child’s need.

Often amicable resolutions can be reached, and at Rudman & Smith and we will do our utmost to provide you with the opportunity for an amicable resolution and zealous advocacy in the court room to advance your positions if the parties are unable to agree.

If you have been served in a Paternity, Custody or Child Support action you have only a short period of time to respond; otherwise, you can be determined to be in default so in order to preserve your legal rights contact Rudman & Smith well before thirty days of being served. Let Rudman & Smith experienced attorneys advocacy benefit you.  Contact us for your free consultation.


Modifications

If you have already received a Martial Dissolution Judgment, Legal Separation Judgment, Paternity Judgment, or Administrative Child Support Order, under certain circumstances such judgments can be modified to increase or decrease modifiable maintenance awards, custody and/or child support orders. 

The primary issue in a Modification case is whether there exists substantial change of circumstances of a continuing nature that require a modification to the terms of a previous judgment. A few examples of substantial changes of circumstances include: an increase or decrease in resources concerning the payment or need for maintenance and/or child support; the proposed relocation of a parent and effect upon a parenting plan; or the changes necessary for the best interests of a child with respect to custody. 

It is advisable to seek the legal advice of an attorney to assist your evaluation as to whether a modification is appropriate in your case. If you have been served in a Modification in a Divorce, Legal Separation, Paternity, Custody or Child Support action you have only a short period of time to respond; otherwise, you can be determined to be in default. In order to preserve your legal rights contact Rudman & Smith well before thirty days of being served.


Motions for Contempt, 
Motions to Compel & Family Access Orders

Once a Judgment of Dissolution, Legal Separation or Paternity is established the respective judgment sets forth certain rights and obligations of the parties. If a party intentionally refuses to meet their respective obligations as set forth in the judgment without good cause and in bad faith the other party may seek a Motion in Contempt requiring the other party to show cause why they have failed to meet their obligation. 

If the party fails to demonstrate good cause the court may sanction them with confinement and/or fines, award attorney fees and compel the party to meet their obligations. A few examples of reasons for a Motion for Contempt are failure to pay maintenance, child support, turn over property, or sell certain property. 

When a contempt matter involves a parent who is wrongfully preventing access to a child in violation of a parenting plan to the other parent, such parent may seek a Family Access Order from the court which can address make-up time with minor child, custody, and award of attorney fees as a sanction. Contact us for your free consultation if you have a contempt or family access matter.


Orders of Protection & Restraining Orders

In the event that a party who has an intimate relationship with someone, such as residing in the same household, formerly dating, has a child with someone (whether married or not, and is being threatened with harm or has been harmed by someone, one may seek an Order of Protection (more commonly known as a restraining order) from the appropriate Circuit Court, and seek Ex Parte Order of Protection, and at minimum obtain a hearing date on the matter. 

Additionally, if you are being stalked by someone, even if you do not have an intimate relationship with that person an Order of Protection can be sought. The court may order that someone not have any contact with a person or communicate in any manner, including not residing with the Petitioner in an Ex Parte Order pending determination at a full hearing. 

This can be a complicated scenario if the parties live together, work together, or have a child between them. Violation of even an Ex Parte Order once it is served upon a Respondent can result in criminal charges. If you believe you are in need of an Order of Protection or have been served an Order of Protection contact us for your free consultation.


Guardianships, Adoptions & Step Parent Adoptions

There are cases in which a parent or both parents are unable, unwilling or unfit to provide the necessary care for a child. In such cases a state may intervene and take a child into protective custody or a child could be left in the care of a family member. In order to establish legal rights to make decisions for a child in this circumstance a family member may seek a legal Guardianship to be able to provide for the care, custody and control of the child. 

Depending on the circumstances some cases will be handled in the Probate Court and some in the Family Court depending on the venue and jurisdiction of the court. Additionally, there are cases in which a party may seek an Adoption or Step Parent Adoption of child. As Guardian, Conservator (care, custody and control of assets that belong to child), Adoptions, or Step Parent Adoptions are complicated, contact us for your free consultation.


Divisions of Family Services (DFS) Cases

The State of Missouri through the Division of Family Services is charged with the investigation of child abuse and neglect cases as well as the enforcement of the juvenile code including truancy matters. The involvement of DFS may arise from a hotline call, mandatory reporter or other source. 

In some cases DFS may seek to take a child  from a party that the child resides with into protective custody for further determination. Parental rights of all parents, whether they are involved with any incident that gave rise to the investigation or not, can be affected by the court taking jurisdiction. DFS cases involve serious matters and, as with all family law matters, the counsel of an attorney is highly recommended.