Divorce in Missouri
In Missouri, a Dissolution of Marriage is the legal term used for a divorce. To be eligible to file for a Dissolution of Marriage in the state, either you or your spouse must have been a resident here for at least 90 days. Unlike some other states, it is not necessary for you to have already physically separated in order to file for a divorce.
When filing for a Dissolution of Marriage, you don’t need to allege any misconduct on the part of your spouse. This is because Missouri is a modified no-fault state, meaning that all determinations are made without considering marital misconduct. However, any misconduct can still be taken into account when dividing assets and awarding maintenance (alimony).
Once the paperwork has been filed, there must be a 30-day waiting period before the Judge can enter a Judgment dissolving the marriage. Depending on whether or not your spouse responds to your petition, contested cases can take many months and sometimes over a year before they are finished.
There will likely be some associated costs with filing for a Dissolution of Marriage – usually a filing fee and a service fee paid to the county. Fee waiver forms are available from the Circuit Clerk if needed, and the Judge may also issue an award ordering one party to pay all or a portion of the other party’s attorney’s fees.
If you choose to proceed without an attorney, pro-se forms prepared by the Supreme Court of Missouri are available online which can help with filing the appropriate docs. The Midwestern Mile Legal Services also offers Uncontested Divorce Clinics on occasion, where volunteer attorneys and law students advise clients on how to get divorced without needing an attorney.
In regards to the division of property and debts, Missouri laws require an equitable distribution system; this means that all marital assets and liabilities must be divided fairly between the parties. Child support amounts are determined using Form 14 Child Support Calculation Worksheet based on both parties’ income along with several other expenses associated with the child. Maintenance (alimony) awards consider the financial resources of each spouse as well as the standard of living established during the marriage.
So if you’re thinking about ending your marriage in the state of Missouri, it is important to understand these legal requirements so that you can make an informed decision and know what to expect during the process.
Missouri Divorce Details
Some couples go through a long courtship period before getting married. The average length of an engagement is around sixteen months, however, it can be a lot quicker to get a divorce, especially in Missouri.
If you have lived in Missouri for at least 90 days then you can file for a no-fault divorce. A judge will wait 30 days and if no one is contesting the divorce it will be granted. That means from start to finish it only takes a minimum of 120 days to end your Missouri marriage if there are no complications. However, it is those complications that can prolong the divorce proceedings in Missouri.
Filing with the Court in Missouri
You must file your Missouri divorce papers in the court located in the County where you presently reside. We will provide the court information in the documents that we send to you, but some of the courts in Missouri are listed below:
- St. Louis County: Civil Courts Building
10 North Tucker Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63101-2044 Phone: 314-622-4433
- St. Louis County: Family Court Center
501 South Brentwood and Courts Building, 7900 Carondelet, Clayton, MO 63105 Phone: 314-615-4400 Fax: 314-615-4477
- St. Charles County Courthouse
300 N. 2nd Street, St. Charles, MO 63301 Phone: 636-949-3080 Fax: 636-949-7384
- Greene County Courthouse
1010 Boonville, Springfield, Missouri 65802 Phone: 417-868-4074 Fax: 417-868-4050
- Cole County Courthouse
Post Office Box 503, Jefferson City, MO 65102 Phone: 573-634-9170 Fax: 573-635-5376
- Platte County Courthouse
415 Third Street Platte, Missouri 64079 Phone: 816-858-2232 Fax: 816-858-3392
- Jackson County Courthouse
415 East 12th Street 3rd Floor Kansas City, MO 64106 Phone: 816-881-3934 Fax: 816-881-3681
- Cass County Circuit Clerk
17th. Judicial Circuit, 2501 W. Mechanic Street, Harrisonville, MO 64701 Phone: 816-331-2798 Fax: 816-331-3179
If your County court is not listed, the information for your court will be included in the divorce papers we send you.
Grounds for Divorce in Missouri
Either spouse can file for a divorce in Missouri but if a no-fault divorce is contested then the petitioner (first person to file) has to prove that the respondent has broken the marriage that it can’t be fixed.
The petitioner then needs to prove the grounds for the divorce. This means proving that the respondent has cheated or has created an atmosphere that is intolerable to live in based on physical or emotional abuse. If it can be proved that the respondent has abandoned the petitioner for at least six months or they have lived apart for up to 12 months that can also be grounds for a divorce in Missouri.
Depending on the circumstances, if children are involved in the marriage a court can order some form of couple’s counseling to see if the marriage can be salvaged. A couple can also be legally separated based upon the same factors that would be used as grounds for a divorce.
Often a legal separation is put into place to establish custody and support issues on the way towards a final divorce. A couple who is legally separated is technically still married but living apart. There is always hope that a legal separation can be reconciled.
Property Distribution in Missouri
Missouri is an equitable distribution state. A divorce judge has a specific set of guidelines to use in order to divide the property and assets of the marriage. What is off the table is any property that was given to one spouse as a gift, bequest, or inheritance, any property that was obtained after a legal separation, or any property that is agreed by both parties to be excluded.
Whatever is left after that will be divided fairly. That division is based on the current financial situations of each party, what they contributed to the marriage and where the children will be living. A judge can even consider how the husband and wife behaved during the marriage as a factor in deciding who gets what.
Alimony Awards in Missouri
If the petitioner seeks alimony from the respondent, then the judge has to first determine what the needs of the petitioner might be. This could be how much it will cost to maintain the household where the children will be living.
The judge will also consider if the petitioner will be able to support themselves at some point in the future and how much money the respondent currently makes. A judge can also consider how long the marriage lasted and the grounds for the divorce.