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Missouri Divorce Process

When most couples marry, they never imagine they’ll divorce one day. The sad truth is that since the divorce rate in this country is 40-50%, there’s a chance that your marriage may also end in divorce.

In the State of Missouri, you don’t need to cite specific grounds for divorce. All you have to do is assert that your marriage is irretrievably broken. If you and your spouse agree to divorce, it should be a smooth process. Be aware that it doesn’t always work this way.

Regardless of how amicable your divorce may be, you need to have a general understanding of the divorce process in Missouri. Read on as we discuss this process and explain the basics of a Missouri divorce.

Missouri Divorce Process: The Basics

A person who files for divorce in Missouri is the petitioner. Most petitioners hire a divorce attorney to handle their case. Your divorce lawyer is familiar with how the divorce process works and how the local family judges operate.

Before discussing the basic terms of a divorce in Missouri, it’s worth pointing out that Missouri has a 30-day waiting period. You and your spouse must live apart for at least 30 days before you file your divorce petition.

You also have to meet the state’s residency requirement. Missouri’s residency requirement is less strict than other states. You only have to live in Missouri for 90 days before filing for divorce.

Below are a few terms to know if you plan on filing for divorce:


  • Petition: The petition for dissolution of marriage informs the Missouri court about the nature of the case. It also identifies the other spouse, referred to as the respondent, and the desired outcome, or relief. Petitions often include requests for division of property, alimony, child custody, and other related matters. The person filing the divorce is the petitioner.
  • Verification and Filing: Before you file your petition, you must verify it through an affidavit before a notary public. You can then file your petition in the county where you or the respondent live.
  • Additional Forms: Depending on the nature of your divorce, you may need to file a Filing Information Sheet, Income and Expense Statement, Statement of Property and Debt, and other forms.
  • Notification: You can notify your spouse of the divorce filing via personal service through the county sheriff's office or by hiring a process server. There are alternate ways of serving your spouse by publication if you are unable to locate them. You must first attempt to have them served in person at their home or place of employment. Your spouse can choose to sign a waiver of service or file an Answer.
  • Answer: The respondent has 30 days to file a written response after receiving a copy of the divorce complaint. This response is known as the answer.
  • Uncontested Divorce: If the parties agree on all the terms, including child custody and equitable distribution of marital property, it's uncontested and proceeds at a rapid pace.
  • Contested Divorce: File for a contested divorce if you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of your divorce. These divorces can take months or years to finalize. When you submit your divorce papers, tell the court what you expect to resolve during the divorce proceedings, such as spousal support, child custody, child support, and for the court to divide your property via equitable distribution.
  • Hearing: The court will schedule a hearing if the divorce is contested, which is the most common type. At the hearing, the petitioner and respondent each present evidence such as testimony, documents, and other evidence to support their arguments. The judge will then give their ruling, which becomes final 30 days later. Depending on the type of court order, there is a period in which a party may ask for the court to either reconsider the decision or appeal it.
  • Parenting Plan: If you have minor children, you and your spouse must submit a parenting plan to the court. In general, the court will approve your plan, assuming you both agree, unless the judge believes it’s not in the best interest of your children. If your spouse disagrees with the plan you submit, they will file their own proposed plan. A court date may be scheduled for the court to decide issues related to your children.
  • Certificate of Dissolution: Once your divorce is final, the judge will issue a Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This document serves as your final divorce decree.


You can find additional information and official forms below.

Missouri Divorce Laws

Missouri Revised Statutes Section 452.025, et seq.

Missouri Divorce Forms

Required forms for divorcing in Missouri include:

Note: Additional forms related to Missouri divorce, including visitation and child support, are available at Missouri's Dissolution of Marriage site.

Grounds for Divorce

Some of the reasons you can petition for divorce include the following:

  • Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, known as no-fault divorce
  • The respondent has committed adultery, and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent
  • The respondent behaved in such a way that the court cannot reasonably expect the petitioner to live with the respondent
  • The respondent has abandoned the petitioner for a continuous period of at least six months before filing their petition
  • The parties have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for a continuous period of 12 months immediately preceding the filing of the petition
  • The parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least twenty-four months preceding the filing of the petition without an agreement by the other party to do so

How does fault come into play in a Missouri divorce? If one party files on the basis that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the responding party disagrees, the petitioning party can argue that the reason the marriage is irretrievably broken is due to one of the listed fault grounds.

Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through enacting new legislation, court decisions, and other means. Contact a Missouri family law attorney or conduct legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Missouri Divorce Process: Related Resources

Discuss Your Questions About the Divorce Process in Missouri With a Lawyer

Divorce can be quite complex and challenging. It’s hard enough to deal with the emotional aspect of a divorce. The last thing you’ll want to do is deal with the legal side.

If you have questions about the divorce process in Missouri, contact a skilled divorce lawyer near you today. They can give you legal advice about your divorce case and guide you to the best possible outcome.

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