How to File a Divorce in Missouri

How to File a Divorce in Missouri: A Comprehensive Guide

Going through a divorce can be an emotionally challenging and complex process. Understanding the legal procedures and requirements involved is essential to ensure a smooth and fair resolution. If you are considering filing for divorce in Missouri, this article will guide you through the necessary steps.

1. Meet the Residency Requirements: To file for divorce in Missouri, either you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days before the filing.

2. Determine the Grounds for Divorce: Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, meaning you don’t have to prove fault or wrongdoing to file for divorce. The most common ground for divorce is “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” which implies that the marriage has broken beyond repair.

3. Gather Necessary Documents: Before filing for divorce, collect important documents such as marriage certificates, financial statements, property ownership papers, and any other relevant records. These will help provide a clear picture of your marital assets and debts.

4. Prepare the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: The petition is a legal document that initiates the divorce process. It should include information about both spouses, grounds for divorce, and details about child custody, support, and division of assets and debts.

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5. File the Petition: Once you have prepared the petition, file it with the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse resides. Pay the filing fee, which varies by county.

6. Serve the Divorce Papers: After filing, you must legally serve your spouse with a copy of the petition. This can be done by a sheriff, process server, or any adult who is not involved in the case.

7. Respond to the Petition: If you are the respondent, you have 30 days to respond to the petition after being served. Failure to respond may result in a default judgment against you.

8. Negotiate Settlement or Go to Trial: After both parties have responded, negotiations can begin to reach a settlement for child custody, support, property division, and spousal maintenance. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial, and a judge will make the final decisions.

9. Obtain the Final Decree: If an agreement is reached or the court makes a decision, the judge will issue a final decree of dissolution of marriage. This legally terminates the marriage and outlines the terms of the divorce settlement.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

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1. Can I file for divorce without an attorney?
Yes, it is possible to file for divorce without an attorney. However, it is recommended to seek legal advice, as divorce laws can be complex, and an attorney can ensure your rights are protected.

2. How long does a divorce take in Missouri?
The time frame varies depending on the complexity of the case and court schedules. On average, an uncontested divorce can take around 60-90 days, while a contested divorce may take several months or longer.

3. Can I get a divorce if my spouse doesn’t agree?
Yes, you can still get a divorce even if your spouse doesn’t agree. However, it may take more time and involve additional legal procedures.

4. Do I have to attend parenting classes during a divorce?
In Missouri, some courts require divorcing parents to attend parenting classes. These classes aim to educate parents on the impact of divorce on children and teach effective co-parenting strategies.

5. How is child custody determined in Missouri?
Child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. Factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, their physical and emotional needs, and the ability of each parent to provide a stable environment are taken into account.

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6. Can I modify child support orders in Missouri?
Yes, child support orders can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in income or changes in the child’s needs.

7. Does Missouri recognize legal separation?
No, Missouri does not recognize legal separation. Couples who wish to live separately without divorcing can enter into a separation agreement, but it does not have the same legal status as a divorce.

8. How are marital assets divided in Missouri?
Missouri follows the principle of equitable distribution, meaning marital assets are divided fairly but not necessarily equally. The court considers factors such as each spouse’s financial resources, contributions to the marriage, and future earning potential.

9. Can I remarry immediately after getting a divorce in Missouri?
Yes, you can remarry once your divorce is finalized. However, it is advisable to wait until you have received the final decree before entering into a new marriage.

Filing for divorce in Missouri requires careful planning, understanding of the legal process, and consideration of the best interests of all parties involved. Seeking professional advice can help navigate through the complexities and ensure a fair resolution for everyone.