Whether your Missouri divorce is straightforward or complicated, reviewing the law will help you identify which parts of your case require the most work and discussion with your spouse. Before you do move forward, you must satisfy state residency requirements with at least one spouse living in Missouri for 90 days immediately preceding the filing.
Missouri permits both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. To file a no-fault divorce, you and your spouse simply state that your marriage is "irretrievably broken." While most couples file for no-fault divorce, Missouri also allows the following fault-based grounds:
- Incompatibility or unreasonable behavior
- One spouse abandoning the other for a minimum of six months
- Voluntarily living apart for at least one year
- Separation for at least two years
How to File
To start your divorce case, you must file a summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If you choose to forego a lawyer, you must complete the Litigant Awareness Program. (Once you've completed the program, you should be able to download forms from the court website.) Once you've filled out the petition, it needs to be notarized before you can file the petition. After the petition is filed:
- You will likely have to fill out additional forms, depending on the details of your case, and file them with your local court. These forms may include an Income and Expense Statement, a Statement of Property and Debt, a Filing Information Sheet, a Certificate of Dissolution, and a proposed Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. If you have children, you must also file a Parenting Plan.
- The filing spouse must serve the petition and a summons on the responding spouse has 30 days to reply.
Whether your case is contested or you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, you will need to attend a hearing to finalize the divorce.
- Before the hearing, make sure that all the necessary paperwork has been filed, and check to see if your spouse has answered the summons.
- If you have minor children, you and your spouse must take a parenting education class before the hearing. You can find a class through your local court.
- Depending on the procedural rules at your county court, you may also need to schedule your hearing because you are not automatically put on the docket.
After the hearing, the judge will issue a written decree which will become final 30 days after the hearing.
Dividing the Property
- Each spouse's economic circumstances
- How each spouse contributed to the couple's assets
- Each party's conduct during the marriage
- The value of any non-marital property
- The custody arrangements for any minor children
In Missouri, the court may award spousal support to either spouse. According to Cordell & Cordell, a spouse seeking maintenance must specifically request it in the divorce papers, and show that she can't support herself without it. In determining the need, duration, and amount of maintenance, the court considers:
- The financial situation of the party seeking support and whether he or she is able to be self-supporting
- How long it will take the recipient to acquire training or education necessary to obtain suitable employment
- The earning ability of both spouses
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The parties' assets and debts
- Length of the marriage
- Age, as well as physical and emotion health, of the parties
- The support-paying spouse's ability to support himself or herself while paying maintenance to the other person
- The parties' conduct during the marriage
- Anything else the court deems important
Child Custody and Support
Of primary concern for the any divorce court is the welfare of children involved in divorce cases. The Missouri divorce court makes certain to provide for the financial, educational, and emotional needs of the children from the very beginning of the divorce case.
In any Missouri divorce case involving minor children, the court must determine a suitable custody arrangement. The court considers the following factors:
- What the child wants
- The parents' proposed parenting plan
- The child's need for frequent contact with both parents
- The child's relationship with siblings and other important individuals in the household
- Which party is more likely to encourage the child to see the other parent
- The child's adjustment to his or her surroundings
- The mental and physical health of both parents and any history of abuse
- Whether either parent intends to relocate
Each parent, regardless of gender, has a duty to provide financial support for minor children until they reach adulthood. Child support is based on the Missouri Child Support Guidelines. The Missouri divorce court considers the following factors in figuring out the amount of any child support payments:
- The child's financial needs and resources
- The parents' financial needs resources
- The child's standard of living during the marriage
- The child's physical and emotional condition
- The child's educational needs
- Custody arrangements
- How much each parent pays for child care
Although deciding to end your marriage can be a difficult choice, knowing the proper procedure will help you keep a cool head while you decide how to handle your case. In most cases, it's best to consult with an attorney to make sure your interests are protected.