How Do I Get a Missouri Divorce?
If you’re here, then you are probably considering a divorce, or at the very least, want some information about the divorce process. Whether this is your first time down this road, or you have been divorced in the past, you probably have questions. Our goal here is to answer as many of your questions as we can, while leading you down this road as quickly, affordably and painlessly as possible.
How Do I Start the Missouri Divorce Process?
The first step is deciding how to file, where to file and what type of case you have. Let’s take those one at a time:
How to File for Divorce
You can file your case in one of two ways, by yourself or with the help of your attorney. Filing by yourself is called filing “pro se.” To file by yourself, you fill out the paperwork from the Missouri Courts website, go to your local circuit court and file the case. The other way is with the help of an attorney. To use an attorney for your divorce, the first step is setting up a consultation to meet with an attorney to discuss your case. If you hire or “retain” an attorney, then they will draft the divorce paperwork and file the case for you.
Where to File for Divorce in St. Louis
In Missouri, your divorce case will be filed wherever your residence has been for the past 90 days or wherever your spouse’s residence has been for the past 90 days. Missouri is split into circuits, and each circuit has a court where civil cases, such as divorces are filed. For example, if you live in Chesterfield, then you reside in St. Louis County and would file your case at the circuit court in Clayton. However, if you live in Wentzville, then your residence is in St. Charles County and you would file at the circuit court in St. Charles.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
The main distinction in the world of divorce cases is uncontested vs contested. While the court system in Missouri does not actually distinguish between the two, if you hire a lawyer, they likely do. An uncontested case when hiring an attorney means the parties have come to an agreement, are on the same page with everything, and generally just need to hire one attorney to file the divorce and draft the settlement paperwork. Many attorneys charge a flat fee for this scenario. A contested divorce is when parties disagree on core issues and will likely need to proceed into the litigation process to some degree to resolve their case.
How Much is a Divorce Going to Cost?
At our firm, we offer a couple different payment options. While most firms will not disclose pricing until you are meeting with them, we think it is important for clients to understand up front what they are getting into and the value of our services.
- Flat fees: We offer flat fees for a variety of services. For an uncontested divorce, we offer a flat fee between $1,200.00 and $2,500.00, plus filing fees, based on the amount of issues that will need to be resolved, if you have children, the extent of your assets, and the county you reside in. Other services we offer at flat fees include name changes, orders or protection, and certain types of adoptions.
We offer a flat fee for contested cases as well. These flat fees tend to be higher, usually ranging between $5,000.00 and $10,000.00 based on circumstances, but may be preferable to some clients than hourly rates, as a very contested case billed at an hourly rate can many times run well over $10,000.00.
- Hourly Rate: The typical contested case is billed at an hourly rate. This means that all work done on your case, is billed by tenths of an hour at a rate ranging from $250.00 to $325.00 per hour for your attorney’s work. Work done on your case by our administrative staff is billed at a reduced rate of $150.00 per hour.
- Retainer: As is the case in almost all hourly billing agreements, our firm does ask for money up front should you choose to go with hourly billing. The retainer generally ranges between $1,500.00 and $2,500.00. At times we will split that up into a few parts to make it easier for clients to afford, at the firm’s discretion.
A word about fees: Times are tough and hiring a lawyer is rarely, if ever, in the budget. Many people spend hours searching google for “affordable divorce lawyer,” “cheap divorce attorney,” or “free Missouri divorce.” We aren’t the cheapest firm in town. We are not near the most expensive firm in town. It is a balancing act. Our goal is to provide you with advanced, experienced representation at an affordable price. Charging too little means that we would not be able to afford to devote the time to your case to complete it the right way without making mistakes, and you would then likely spend more money down the road trying to fix your divorce. There is a point where cheap legal help now ends up being costly legal help to you down the road.
Why is Our St. Louis Family Law Firm Different?
It seems simple, but it only takes some small steps to greatly differentiate yourself from the competition. Rather than throw out fluffy descriptions about being aggressive at trial or caring about your needs, it is important to know the tangible differences between our firm and other firms:
- Phone Calls: We return them. Emails too. Our goal is to return all communication within a few hours and generally within 24 hours at the longest. Unreturned communication is always one of the biggest complaints clients have at other firms, and we understand that this is a stressful time and you have questions that need to be addressed in a timely fashion.
- Client involvement: We let our clients make decisions in their case to control the cost and to control the tone of the case. While we take the lead, as you are hiring a professional to guide you through the process, it is important to involve clients so they have some control over the process. We will work together as a team to get through your divorce.
- Tailored approach: We will fit the litigation process to your set of circumstances. Some people hire the most “aggressive” attorney in town. This can cost you a lot of money in a case that didn’t need to be litigated so extensively. Some people hire “collaborative” attorneys that focus on mediation. This can lead to you getting pushed around and compromising the results of your case at times. We take the route that is best for you. We have a tempered approach to settle the cases that should be settled, but have extensive trial experience to fight the battles that need to be fought at trial.
There are plenty of other ways we are different and plenty of ways we are the same as other firms. However, those are the issues that clients always bring up in consultations, and those are the issues that can really change your experience with an attorney. In the end, it is important to come into the office and chat with us to determine if we are a fit for you.
What Else Do I Need to Know About Missouri Divorce?
You likely have numerous other questions about the divorce process, how the divorce will affect your children, where you will live, how will you support yourself after the divorce, and countless other issues. Our site is here to help and what is not answered here can surely be answered at your initial consultation. Please check out our resource page, our FAQ section, and our blog for some quick answers.