Missouri Divorce Laws and How to File
If you no longer want to be married to your spouse, you need to get a divorce. You generally must file for divorce in the state where you or your spouse lives. (Missouri Divorce Laws)
This guide on how to file for divorce in Missouri helps you understand what to expect as you file court paperwork and end your union.
Who Can File for Divorce in Missouri?
To file for divorce in the state of Missouri, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days. Military members stationed in the state for at least 90 days may also meet this eligibility requirement.
What are the grounds to file for divorce in Missouri?
There must be a reason you are seeking a divorce, which must be stated in your court filing when pursuing a divorce in Missouri.
In Missouri, many divorces are based on the fact that the marriage has irrevocably broken down, which is considered a no-fault divorce.
If you and your spouse agree that this is the case – or if one of you says that this is the case and the other does not deny it – you can get a divorce on these grounds.
However, if neither spouse agrees that the marriage has broken down irrevocably, the court will consider whether the divorce should be granted. Factors the court looks for include the following:
- Your spouse has committed adultery, and you no longer wish to marry.
- Your spouse has behaved inappropriately in a way that makes it unreasonable to expect that you will continue to live together
- Your spouse left you for at least six consecutive months from the time you filed for divorce
- You and your spouse lived separate and apart for at least 12 months before you filed for divorce, and you both agreed to this living arrangement
- You and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least 24 months, even if you have not mutually agreed to do so
How to File for Divorce in Missouri
To understand about how to file for divorce in Missouri, you need to know where and how to file the court paperwork.
You can file for a divorce in the county where you or your spouse live. You can use the Find a Court feature on the Missouri courts website to locate the appropriate court to fill out your forms and begin dissolving your marriage.
You must pay the divorce filing fee for your county when you file for divorce in Missouri. If you cannot do so due to financial circumstances, you can request the court to waive the fee by submitting a forma pauperis form.
When you file for divorce, you initially need to include several forms, which may include the following documents:
- Petition for divorce
- Income and Expenditure Statement
- Asset and loan details
- parenting plan
- filing information sheet
You can find these divorce forms on the Missouri Courts website. They come as fillable PDFs or blank PDFs that you can print. You may also need to submit additional documents depending on the specifics of your county or your situation. (Missouri Divorce Laws)
Serving Divorce Paperwork in Missouri
Once you file the divorce paperwork, your spouse must be notified that you have initiated the divorce. There are different ways to provide notice, including the following options:
Waiver of personal service: With this approach, your spouse accepts the divorce paperwork and signs a form called “Admission of Appearance and Waiver of Service.” This form must be notarized and submitted to the court
Personal service: A court official or sheriff delivers the papers to your spouse.
Private or special process service: A personal process server is appointed by the court if your spouse is difficult to locate or avoids service. (Missouri Divorce Laws)
Service by publication: If you are not able to find your spouse and the court has permitted, then the notice can be published in a newspaper or other public place
After serving your spouse, they have 30 days to respond and file an answer. This would mean that the court has accepted all the requests made in your original petition to dissolve your marriage. The court can proceed with a default divorce if your spouse does not respond.
If your spouse responds, you can proceed with divorce proceedings and dissolve your marriage through a contested or uncontested divorce.
- Disputed or uncontested divorce
- Divorces in Missouri can be contested or uncontested.
- Spousal support and child support. If it’s a contested divorce, it means you have a lawsuit.
The court evaluates the evidence that you and your spouse present and makes decisions on issues you can’t agree on that affect your divorce, such as child custody, division of property, and debts. The court’s decision becomes the terms of the dissolution of your marriage. (Missouri Divorce Laws)
In an uncontested divorce in Missouri, you and your spouse agree on all of the issues raised by the dissolution of your marriage and enter into a settlement agreement that includes the details.
Your settlement agreement specifies your decision regarding alimony, marital property, and debts. It should also have a parenting plan that provides for the following:
- Exactly how will the child share time with each parent
- How do you handle the transportation of children between parents
- How legal custody is determined and whether parents will share decision-making about important issues such as education and health care
- The amount of child support and how child-related expenses such as school costs and medical bills will be paid
What process will you use to resolve child-related disagreements that may arise after the divorce is finalized?
An uncontested divorce can be less expensive and often results in a better outcome that makes both spouses happier. A Missouri divorce attorney can help you negotiate a settlement agreement to maximize your chances of an uncontested divorce.
Your attorney can also help you find a professional mediator who helps couples reach a divorce settlement agreement out of court if they cannot agree. (Missouri Divorce Laws)
What is the waiting period for a Missouri divorce?
In Missouri, a judge cannot grant a divorce until at least 30 days have passed since you filed for marriage dissolution. (Missouri Divorce Laws)
Getting Legal Help With a Divorce Case in Missouri
Knowing how to file for divorce in Missouri doesn’t necessarily mean you’re prepared to defend your rights at every step.
End with a settlement agreement. The outcome of your divorce affects your children’s and future financial security, so you must have legal counsel.
Once you have decided to end your marriage, you should contact a Missouri divorce attorney as soon as possible to help you maximize your chances of a simple, quick divorce that you can live with. (Missouri Divorce Laws)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How is marital property divided in a Missouri divorce?
In Missouri, equal distribution rules apply when a marriage ends. This means that the court must decide how to divide the shared property fairly.
In similar distribution states, an equal division of marital property is not guaranteed. Instead, the court aims to make a fair distribution of assets based on several factors, including what each party contributed to the marriage and how long the union lasted. (Missouri Divorce Laws)
Can You Get Alimony in a Missouri Divorce?
Alimony is awarded in some Missouri divorces, although it is more commonly referred to as “maintenance” in Missouri.
The court considers about several factors in deciding whether to order maintenance payments, including whether the recipient spouse has sufficient income or assets to meet their reasonable needs. What are the employment and earning opportunities available to each spouse? (Missouri Divorce Laws)
How long does a Missouri divorce take?
Missouri has a 30-day waiting period between the time you file for divorce and the time your divorce is approved.
If both you and your spouse do not agree that your marriage has irreversibly broken down, you may be required to live apart for up to twenty four months to be able to proceed with dissolving your union.
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