How to Get A Divorce in Missouri?
Missouri Divorce Laws and Requirements
Before filing for divorce in Missouri, it is important to understand the state’s laws and requirements. Missouri is a “no fault” divorce state, meaning you do not need to prove fault-based grounds like adultery or abandonment to get a divorce. However, there are still several requirements you must meet:
To file for divorce in Missouri, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for 90 days before filing. You also must have lived in the county you plan to file in for 60 days.
Filing for Divorce in Missouri
The process starts by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage in the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse lives. This petition outlines information about you, your spouse, your marriage, and what you are seeking in the divorce judgment.
Grounds for Divorce
As a “no-fault” state, you only need to state in the petition that there are “irreconcilable differences” between you and your spouse. You do not need to provide additional proof or evidence of fault.
Dividing Assets and Debts
The petition will also propose how you want marital assets like property, cars, investments, retirement accounts, and debts to be divided between you and your spouse. The court will decide if the proposed distribution is equitable.
The petition can request temporary and permanent spousal support, also known as alimony. The court determines support amounts based on factors like income, marriage length, and earning capacities.
Child Custody and Support
If you have minor children, the petition also addresses custody arrangements and child support. Custody is based on the child’s best interests, while support adheres to state guidelines.
Steps to get a divorce in Missouri
Here is an overview of what to expect when getting divorced in Missouri:
Deciding to Divorce
First, seriously reflecting on divorce is necessary by trying counseling, separation, mediation, or compromise. If reconciliation is impossible, then decide to divorce.
Hiring an Attorney
Find and hire an experienced Missouri family law attorney to guide you. A lawyer handles filing paperwork, presents your case in court, negotiates settlement terms, and protects your interests.
Filing the Petition
Your attorney will file the petition for dissolution, known as the divorce complaint, in court along with various divorce forms. You are now the “petitioner” and your spouse is the “respondent.”
Serving Your Spouse
Your spouse must receive official service in the process of the summons, petition, and paperwork. A process server formally delivers the documents. Your spouse has 30 days to respond after being served.
Responding to the Petition
Once served, your spouse must file a response, counterpetition, or contest the divorce. Arguments will center around custody, support, property division, debts, or alimony. Much negotiation occurs in trying to reach a mutual agreement.
Going Through Discovery
You and your spouse exchange disclosure statements listing income, expenses, assets, and debts. You can interview each other, request documentation, or do depositions. Financial affidavits detailing assets, incomes, and expenses are required before a divorce decree will be ordered.
Reaching a Settlement
Most divorces settle out of court because trials are public, expensive, and draining. Settlement negotiations happen between you, your spouse, and your attorneys. Mediators also facilitate agreements. Compromise by both spouses usually achieves settlement.
Presenting the Settlement to the Court
The written settlement agreement containing all details is presented to the judge for issuance of a divorce decree. The judge wants assurance that settlement terms are mutually fair and not one-sided. Courts must approve child support terms.
Getting a Divorce Decree
The divorce decree is the final court judgment legally ending your marriage. The judge approves mutually fair settlement terms and signs the decree if no objections exist. The court clerk files and enters the decree into public records after judge approval.
After the Divorce is Finalized
Once your divorce decree is issued, here are some final steps:
Taking Care of Final Tasks
After your divorce decree, change your name, and update important legal documents like your driver’s license, insurance, titles, wills, medical directives, and beneficiary designations on financial accounts. Also, file qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs) dividing retirement accounts.
Give yourself time to heal emotionally and financially from the divorce trauma before starting new relationships. Consider counseling. Lean on family and friends for support. Focus energy on your kids, work, or finding new hobbies. Gradually start shaping a new fulfilling life.
Q1: How much does getting a divorce cost in Missouri?
A: Average divorce costs in Missouri range from $200-$300 to file paperwork plus attorneys fees averaging $150-$300 per hour if hiring a lawyer. Contested divorces dragging out can reach $20,000 or more in legal costs.
Q2: How long does it take to get divorced in Missouri?
A: After filing paperwork, couples must wait at least 30 days before the divorce decree. If no disagreements, uncontested cases finish in a few months. Slower cases with disputes can last 8 months up to 1-2 years depending on complexity.
Q3: What happens to the house in a Missouri divorce?
A: Missouri is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning marital property like a house gets divided fairly but not necessarily equally or 50/50. A judge considers factors like finances, needs, and custody arrangements when deciding home ownership and refinancing.
Q4: Can I file divorce papers myself in Missouri without a lawyer?
A: Yes, filing divorce forms yourself without an attorney, known as Pro Se, is allowed. Get instructions, forms, and toolkits from court clerk offices or the Missouri Courts Self-Help Centers. But having a lawyer makes getting divorced much easier navigating complexity.
Q5: Does Missouri recognize legal separation?
A: Yes, Missouri permits legal separation where you live apart without formally divorcing as an alternative to divorced couples wishing to remain legally married for religious or other reasons. You must file in court for separation agreements on property, support, and custody like in a divorce.
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