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Missouri Divorce Laws

Deciding to file for divorce may be the hardest decision you ever make. The divorce process can be painful and complex. If you and your spouse can part on amicable terms, your divorce will proceed smoothly and much faster. However, even amicable divorces involve difficult conversations.

Knowing Missouri's divorce laws will make navigating your divorce case easier. Having an experienced Missouri divorce lawyer by your side throughout the divorce proceedings can be a huge help.

Here, we will briefly discuss Missouri’s divorce laws and explain the different types of divorce in Missouri. Finally, we’ll describe the legal requirements for a Missouri divorce.

Missouri Divorce Terminology

The person who files for divorce in Missouri is the petitioner. The other party is the respondent. When the petitioner files their divorce papers, the respondent will have 30 days to file a response.

The petitioner must pay the requisite filing fee to the circuit clerk. The costs vary from county to county. Fees range from around $150 to $225 depending on the locality.

The family law courts in Missouri offer valuable resources online. You can contact your local court to confirm the necessary forms and fees for a divorce petition. While you can do this yourself, it may be best to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney before filing your papers.

Legal Requirements for Divorce in Missouri

Every state has specific requirements for divorce. For example, before you file your petition for dissolution of marriage in Missouri, you must live in-state for at least 90 days. Missouri's residency requirements are not as strict as some other states.

There is also a mandatory 30-day waiting period in Missouri. According to Missouri law, the judge cannot issue your final divorce decree for at least 30 days after you file for divorce. This rarely comes into play since the court finalizes very few divorce cases in less than 30 days.

No-Fault Divorce Cases and Fault-Based Divorce Cases

Every state recognizes no-fault divorce. This is the type of divorce case most petitioners file. With a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to blame your spouse for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Instead, you must only confirm that your marriage is broken and that there is no chance of reconciliation. A divorce, based on an allegation that the marriage is irretrievably broken, is recognized in Missouri.

In a fault-based divorce, your attorney will cite specific grounds for divorce. According to Missouri Revisor Statute 452.320, the grounds for divorce include:

  • Your spouse committed adultery
  • Intolerable behavior
  • Separation of 24 months or 12 months if you and your spouse agree to the divorce
  • Abandonment of at least six months

If you cite any of these grounds for divorce, you must provide proof that your spouse engaged in the alleged behavior.

Contested Divorce Case vs. Uncontested Divorce Case in Missouri

Missouri has two main types of divorce cases - uncontested and contested. In an uncontested divorce case, the parties agree to the material terms of the divorce. They submit a marital settlement agreement to the judge. Once the judge approves the agreement, they will issue a final divorce decree.

In a contested divorce, the parties disagree about the terms of the divorce. Some of the issues they may disagree on include:

  • Alimony/spousal support
  • Child custody arrangements of minor children
  • Parenting plan
  • Child support
  • Division of property
  • Marital property vs. separate property

Your Missouri divorce lawyer will have time to negotiate a settlement with your spouse’s attorney. If they can achieve this, they’ll draft a settlement agreement and submit it to the circuit court. If they cannot agree, your case will go to trial.

At trial, the judge makes the final decisions. It removes all power from you and your spouse. It’s best if you can agree on these terms yourself. Otherwise, you put the fate of your divorce in the judge’s hands.

Imagine that you and your spouse disagree about what constitutes marital assets. You believe the marital home is yours because you brought it into the marriage. Your spouse argues that they deserve half because they helped make home improvements. This is an example of a contested issue in a divorce.

You may not want the Missouri courts to decide this issue for you. It may be better to negotiate an equitable distribution of your property in a way that compensates your spouse for their contributions to your home’s value.

Missouri Divorce Laws: At a Glance

We have listed some details about Missouri's divorce laws below. See FindLaw's Divorce section for more articles, sample forms, and state-specific information.

Missouri Divorce Code Section

Chap. 452 of the Missouri Revised Statutes

Residency Requirements

90 days

Waiting Period

30 days at least - The court may not enter a final decree of divorce until at least 30 days have passed since the divorce was filed

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

Irretrievable breakdown

Defenses to a Divorce Filing

Denial of allegations (previous defenses of connivance, condonation, collusion, insanity, recrimination, and lapse of time are no longer recognized)

Other Grounds for Divorce

  • Adultery
  • Intolerable behavior
  • 24-month separation (12 months if parties agree)
  • Abandonment of six months

Note: State laws are subject to change through new legislation, higher court rulings, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information, consult an attorney or conduct research to verify your state's laws.

Consult a Missouri Divorce Lawyer for Help

If you're getting divorced, you'll have a lot on your plate. That will increase if you and your spouse have minor children. Even amicable divorces can turn dicey if you fight over child custody, alimony, and property division.

Consulting with an experienced Missouri divorce lawyer can help with your case. Not only do they know the law, but they also know how to navigate Missouri’s family courts. Your divorce attorney in Missouri will work hard to protect your interests and ensure the best possible outcome.

Research the Law

Missouri Divorce Laws: Related Resources

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