The primary purpose of an Interlocutory Judgment in a divorce proceeding in Missouri is to set a valuation date for the purposes of dividing all assets and debts. If you have assets that are constantly changing in value (crops, retirement, businesses) it may be beneficial to have an agreed upon date for purposes of valuation so that the litigants do not have to continue to exchange financial information up to the date of trial. In the absence of an interlocutory judgment being entered the valuation date used by the court is the date of trial. The Interlocutory Judgment saves the clients money and simplifies the process because everyone knows what the date of valuation is for all assets and debts.
Another reason people do interlocutory judgments is because they have part, but not all of their case settled. For example, they have reached an agreement regarding property division and both parties agree that the marriage is broken. They may request an interlocutory judgment so that they are legally divorced but then continue to litigate custody and child support. This allows one or both parties to remarry and it also allows them the satisfaction of knowing they are divorced even though custody and child support have not been resolved. Clients may also want this option if one party wants to purchase a new business or real estate in his or her own name and they don’t want the hassle of the other spouse having to sign on the loan or the title to the property because they are still considered legally married.
Another reason for an interlocutory judgment would be a pending bankruptcy. If husband and wife decide to file a joint bankruptcy they may request an interlocutory judgment be entered so that they are divorced while waiting on the bankruptcy court to lift it’s stay so they can later finish negotiating the terms of what remains of their property and debt.
Yet a fourth reason for an Interlocutory Judgment might be for purposes of qualifying for Medicaid for an older or disabled spouse. The disabled spouse may receive more benefits if he or she is divorced than if he or she remains married. If the parties are planning on divorcing anyway doing an Interlocutory Judgment so that the disabled spouse can qualify for benefits sooner would make sense.
Why not do an Interlocutory Judgment? For one, an Interlocutory Judgment is not a final judgment for purposes of appeal. This means you can’t appeal any agreements made along with the Interlocutory Judgment. This problem can be remedied based on the language of your Judgment so if this is an issue for you discuss with your attorney the wording contained within your Interlocutory Judgment. Second, some clients just prefer to litigate all issues at one time as opposed to settling part, but not all of their case. This is clearly an emotional hurdle to contemplate. Finally, Interlocutory Judgments are confusing to judges and third parties like banks, accountants and even friends/family. As a client you may not want to deal with explaining that you are divorced but do not have your entire case concluded yet.