Divorce is the legal process to end your marriage. Divorce in Missouri is a similar process to most states. Our state has laws that outline how the Court system will process and grant your divorce. Once you and your spouse work through this process, your divorce will be granted and you will legally be a single person.
Divorce is a difficult process. Understanding the ins and outs of how the Court system works can help navigate such a trying journey. Whether you are wanting to file divorce papers or whether you have been served and are required to file an answer within 30 days, you need to know the ins and outs of the process.
How to File for Divorce in Missouri?
Law firms may use a number of different terms to help market their services, but in the end, there is only one way to file for a divorce. A divorce starts when your Missouri divorce attorney files a Petition for Dissolution, as well as some other pleadings and the filing fee, with the local court.
Once these pleadings are accepted by the Court and the case is assigned a case number and a Judge, then your dissolution case is officially open with the Missouri Court system. The “pleadings” or court forms to be filed includes:
- Petition for Dissolution – The Petition is the main document filed in your case. It details the requests for your case including property, child custody and support requests among other items.
- Financial Statements – The financial statements include a Statement of Income and Expenses and a Statement of Property. These documents detail your income, as well as your property and debt. The Court needs this information to properly process the issues in your divorce case.
- Filing Sheets – The filing sheets include a confidential case filing sheet with a bunch of basic information about your family, as well as a certificate of dissolution which also includes date for the Court System and the State so they can keep statistics on divorce in Missouri.
Laws for Divorce in Missouri
While there are many different statutes that can apply to a divorce case, the general divorce laws in Missouri are mostly found in Chapter 452 of the revised statutes. For example, RSMo. 452.330 deals with property division for your divorce in Missouri. This includes how to tell the difference between separate and marital property and the rules the Judge will follow when dividing marital property.
Another example would be RSMo 452.310 listing the requirements for a parenting plan. A parenting plan details all of the terms of a custody arrangement between the two parents. If the child happens to be exceptionally young, a young child custody plan may be set in place.
In addition to the Missouri statutes or “laws,” there are also rules that must be followed by the lawyers and the parties to the divorce. These rules are the Missouri Supreme Court Rules, as well as the local rules for the circuit court where your case is filed. The case is filed in the county where either party resides.
Is it Better to File First for Divorce in Missouri?
It actually does not matter which spouse files the divorce case in Missouri. Judges rarely pay attention to which party filed and which party is responsive. Missouri is a no-fault state, which means you do not need a reason to file for the divorce other than alleging that the marriage is “irretrievably broken and cannot be preserved”.
How Long do you have to be Separated to Get a Divorce in Missouri?
There is no separation requirement to be granted a divorce in Missouri. There are many couples that live together throughout the Court process, for financial purposes or otherwise, and then separate upon entry of the final Judgment. While other states may have a separation requirement, our State does not. As long as you have lived in Missouri for 90 days, you can file whether separated or not.
Uncontested Divorce or Contested Divorce in Missouri
As we mentioned earlier, the divorce process is always the same to some degree, but can be very quick or can be longer. Any case must be filed with the Court to be opened and a Judgment must be entered for the case to be closed. The differences between cases is found in the area between the case being opened and closed.
A true uncontested or amicable case is very quick and closes very quickly after being opened. These cases almost always involve the parties agreeing to the terms of their divorce and entering a settled resolution.
A contested case involves parties that are not in agreement on some or all of the terms of their divorce. These cases tend to last longer and require more Court involvement to reach a resolution.
Issues in a Dissolution of Marriage Case
At our Missouri law firm, we always tell potential cases that a divorce case can contain up to four main issues. These include property/debt division, spousal support, child custody and child support. Some cases will have all these issues, while others will only have a few of them. All divorce cases will at least have one issue, which is property and debt division.
Equitable Division State
Speaking of property and debt division, many clients ask our divorce attorneys how the Judge will divide property and debt. Missouri is an equitable division state. This means that property and debt must just be divided in a way that the Judge thinks is fair.
While other states dictate that property must be divided equally, Judges in Missouri are given more flexibility. While many Missouri Judges will start at a 50/50 division when considering property and debt, they will potentially move from that percentage based on a number of different factors.
What About the Cheating?
How does infidelity play a role? Our lawyers are asked this question a lot. How does cheating affect the outcome of my case? Not as much as you will think. Missouri (and every other state) used to be a lot stricter about divorce.
Some states are still fault divorce states, but Missouri is not and you do not need infidelity or any other reason to get a divorce. The Judge can consider infidelity when dividing property and when awarding spousal support, so it is not a complete non-factor.
Are you Done with the Stress?
Until you move forward and get through this process, the stress and the conflict will not end. Our law firm provides legal services for divorces in Missouri, particularly in St. Louis and the surrounding areas. If you give us a call, we can talk it through. There is no pressure and we can answer your questions.