Divorce is a difficult time for both spouses. Perhaps one spouse wants the divorce, and the other does not. Perhaps both spouses agree that a divorce is for the best, but don’t necessarily agree on how to go about it. If you are thinking about a divorce in Missouri, you may find the following information helpful prior to beginning the process.
Who Can File for Divorce in Missouri?
A married person who has lived in Missouri for at least three months (90 days) can file a petition for divorce. An exception to the three-month rule can be made for a member of the Armed Services who is stationed in the state of Missouri.
What Are the Grounds to File for Divorce in Missouri?
Missouri is a modified “no-fault” state and a couple may get a divorce without proving either party is at fault for the divorce. However, spousal misconduct, adultery, abuse, abandonment, criminal conviction, drug or alcohol abuse, separation, or other “fault” issues may be considered during the case for various reasons, such as for the purposes of splitting of assets or determining support, for example.
The petitioner (the party who initiates the divorce by filing the divorce petition) generally alleges that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” The petition may or may not include substantial details about the marriage, or the fault of the parties. The respondent (the other party, who did not initiate the proceedings) then has a certain amount of time to respond to the allegations made by the Petitioner.
If the respondent disagrees that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the petitioner will need to convince the Court of items such as:
- Your spouse’s behavior is such that it is unreasonable to expect you to continue living together.
- Your spouse’s adultery is intolerable, and you cannot continue living together.
- Prior to your divorce petition, your spouse had abandoned you.
- You and your spouse have not lived together for a substantial period of time.
How to File for Divorce in Missouri
The petitioner files a petition for divorce in the county where one of the party lives. The petition must be signed by the petitioner who verifies that all the allegations in the petition are true. The petition must be notarized by a notary public.
Missouri Courts may also require you to file certain documents along with your petition, including such ones as:
- Filing information sheet;
- Certificate of dissolution;
- Income and expense statement;
- Statement of property and debt;
- Proposed parenting plan if there are children;
- Proposed Marital Settlement Agreement if there is property;
- A proposed “Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage; and
- Other documents may be required.
You may check the court where you plan on filing your petition to see if there are any other documents required. If you hire an attorney, they should be very familiar with all of the above and can assist you with all aspects of your divorce.
There is a filing fee, which varies by county. If you cannot afford the fee, you can file a financial statement and a form called “In Forma Pauperis.” The court will evaluate your statement and determine whether to waive the filing fee.
Serving Divorce Paperwork in Missouri
After the petitioner has filed the petition, he or she must arrange to provide a copy to their spouse to allow the spouse, who becomes the respondent, the chance to respond to the petition. This is called “service of process.” When the service of process has been completed, the petitioner files a proof of service with the court.
There are several ways service can be done:
- If you have a good relationship with your spouse, your spouse may agree to waive personal service and file a signed and notarized document with the court titled “Waiver of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction.”
- Often the Sheriff of the County may work with the Court to deliver service upon the respondent.
- You may hire a special process server (professional process server) to serve the petition and file the proof of service with the court. You will need to provide the process server with detailed information about how to locate your spouse.
- If you cannot find your spouse for service, the court provides guidelines for service by publication. This option can be tricky and there are many special requirements for achieving service this way, and should not be done lightly.
Contested or Uncontested Divorce
A contested divorce is just what it sounds like – the spouses do not agree. Perhaps they do not agree on anything, and fight about many issues. Perhaps they disagree on just some things, and fight over a couple of very specific issues.
On the other hand, an uncontested divorce or cooperative divorce is where both spouses agree they want a divorce and agree on all the other issues, including division of property, a parenting plan, child custody and visitation, child support, and agree to cooperate with each without animosity. For more information on cooperative divorce, we have plenty of information on our website, including on our uncontested divorce page
Getting Legal Help with a Divorce in Missouri
For more information about how we may help you with your divorce, contact us at the Piatchek Law Firm to schedule a consultation.