Missouri Divorce Resources

by Womansdivorce.com | Updated July 27, 2019

Are you facing a marital split in Missouri? If so, you'll need to understand what your legal rights and options are during a divorce. Below you'll be able to access the various laws on divorce which are relevant to your situation and use the MO child support estimator to figure out how much support might possibly be ordered if you have minor children. 

If money is tight and you need to represent yourself, you will be able to get divorce papers or even use an online divorce service. You can also look up qualified divorce attorneys in your area if you need experienced legal representation to handle everything for you. Additionally, there are groups to help support you through the process and domestic abuse resources which can also help.



MO DIVORCE LAWYERS

Need a lawyer in your area? This intuitive service lets you describe your legal problem to match you up with local divorce attorneys interested in your case based on the specifics of your situation. The process is easy and confidential.

DO YOUR OWN DIVORCE

We understand not everyone can afford to hire a lawyer, so we've found a good online option for doing your own divorce. This service helps you complete your paperwork so that it complies with the Missouri requirements. You'll also get the opportunity to access a number of e-books exploring many of the topics which should be considered during a divorce. If this seems like a good option for your situation, you can start a Missouri divorce yourself.

QDRO DOCUMENTS

QDRO Preparation - Both Individuals and lawyers can use the QdroDesk™ service to prepare the necessary QDRO documents for dividing qualified retirement plans during a divorce.

PARENTING CLASSES

Parents of minor children in Missouri who are getting a separation or divorce are required to participate in a mandatory parent education class. These classes are designed to teach parents about the impact of divorce or separation on their children, and what they can do to lessen the effects. There are discussions on how children react at different ages and how parents can learn to co-parent more effectively to ease the stress on their children.

Focus on Kids is offered by the University of Missouri as an online course. You can visit the site, email focusonkids@missouri.edu or call (573) 884-1995 or (573) 424-0482 to find out more about the course.

FOCIS on Children in Separation - This is the court mandated program for divorcing and separating parents in the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Jackson County. Parents must attend the program within 45 days of serving the petition. For more information, contact the Family Court Resource Services at (816) 881-1814.

DIVORCE SUPPORT GROUPS

Divorce Support Group
Cathedral of St. Joseph
Jefferson City, MO
(573) 353-4046

Other Local Groups

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ASSISTANCE

MSADSV - MO Domestic Violence Prevention Website

SUMMARY OF MISSOURI DIVORCE LAWS

Below you will find a summary of relevant divorce laws to help you understand the divorce process in Missouri.

Residency Requirements for a Missouri Divorce

In order to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the state of Missouri, you must first make sure the Circuit Court has jurisdiction over your case by meeting the Missouri residency requirements. The residency requirements of the state are generally only a concern for the spouse who has recently moved or is planning to move in the near future.

At least one spouse must have been a resident of the state of Missouri—or a member of the armed services stationed in Missouri—for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce. At least thirty days must elapse between filing for divorce in Missouri and having the divorce petition granted. You must file for divorce in the county in Missouri where you live, or the county in Missouri where your spouse lives.

Grounds for Divorce in Missouri

Most states have gone to no-fault divorces, meaning a person can ask the court for a divorce without stating a specific reason for the divorce, other than “irreconcilable differences,” or an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” No-fault divorce tends to make divorces at least a bit less acrimonious.  

Missouri is somewhat of a no-fault state. The spouse asking for the divorce must show that the marriage is irretrievably broken (unable to be repaired). You might wonder how you can convince a judge that your marriage is broken. Typically, your testimony is sufficient; if you are the spouse asking for a divorce, you will tell the judge how your spouse’s actions have made it impossible to remain married. Sounds a bit like a fault state, right?  

As an example, in one divorce case in the state of Missouri, the husband who filed for divorce testified his wife nagged him constantly, had a bad temper, and had withheld sex for twenty years. The judge ruled a divorce was necessary. In another case, the wife testified that her husband made certain promises to her prior to the marriage, but failed to follow through with a single one of those promises—and the judge agreed divorce was necessary.

Because of this “quirk” with Missouri no-fault divorce, the state is actually considered a modified no-fault state.   There is one caveat to the issue of grounds for divorce. If your spouse denies your marriage is irretrievably broken, you will be forced to prove one of the following:

  • Your spouse committed adultery, and as a result, you find it intolerable to live with him or her.
  • Your spouse’s behavior is egregious enough that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her.
  • Your spouse abandoned you for at least six continuous months prior to your filing for divorce.
  • You and your spouse have mutually consented to live apart for at least 12 continuous months prior to your filing for divorce.
  • You and your spouse have lived apart without mutual consent for at least 24 continuous months.  

The judge could also continue your divorce case for a period of 30 days to six months, suggesting that you and your spouse seek counseling.  

Filing for a Missouri Divorce

The actual process for a Missouri divorce starts with a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage to initiate the divorce. If there are children under the age of 18 from the marriage (or children under 21 who are currently enrolled full-time in college), the names of the children must be included in the Petition. The Petition for Dissolution of marriage, along with a Confidential Case Filing Information Sheet must be filed in the circuit court for the petitioner’s county.  

The respondent spouse must be served with copies of the Petition by a county sheriff or a private process server. If the respondent spouse does not want to be directly served with the Petition, he or she may complete an Answer to Petition which acknowledges he or she has received a copy of the Petition and that the court has authority over the divorce.  

The Answer is also used to file the respondent’s “official” response to the divorce, stating whether he or she agrees with or disputes any of the statements contained in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Both spouses are required to complete a “Statement of Income and Expenses,” which will be used by the judge to determine spousal maintenance and child support.

Legal Separation in Missouri

While a legal separation does not terminate a marriage, it is filed for in the same manner as a divorce, with both allowing the judge to determine property division, custody, and financial support issues. Some couples may choose legal separation due to a religion prohibiting divorce, because they consider it the best solution for the children, or because it offers certain financial benefits for one or both spouses.

If one spouse asks for a divorce while the other wants only a legal separation, the spouse asking for the separation must prove to the court that the marriage is not irretrievably broken. In reality, if one spouse is asking for a divorce, there is very little chance the marriage can be saved, but if the other spouse can convince a judge there is hope for the marriage, the judge may deny the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage for up to six months.  

There is a third option in Missouri, other than divorce or legal separation, known as separate maintenance. Separate maintenance only allows the court to issue orders regarding child support and alimony and does not include custody or property division decisions.  

If you choose to file for separation, rather than a divorce, you will be bound by the same residency requirements as you would in a divorce - you must show that at least one spouse was a resident of Missouri for at least 90 days prior to filing for the separation. Additionally, the court is required to wait at least 30 days after a couple files for a legal separation before it takes any action on the case. This is known as the “cooling-off period,” under the belief that a couple could potentially save their relationship if they have more time to work it out.

Division of Assets in Missouri

Missouri is an equitable distribution state. In an equitable distribution state, all marital assets are divided fairly, using factors in the marriage to make the determination of what is fair. If the court is involved in dividing your marital assets, it is assumed that you and your spouse are unable to agree on how the assets should be divided.  

Before property can be divided, it must be determined which property is marital property and which is considered non-marital property. Non-marital property is anything a spouse brought to the marriage, as well as a gift or inheritance meant specifically for one spouse.

This is true unless the property has been commingled, that is, mixed in with marital property. As an example, say your great aunt Dorothy left you $50,000 and a beach house prior to your marriage. Then after you are married, you placed the money in a joint account and added your spouse’s name to the title of the beach house. As a result, you ended up commingling non-marital assets. Because of this commingling, both the money and the house are now marital property, to be split under Missouri equitable distribution laws. Even if you did not add your spouse’s name to the title of the house, if you used marital assets through the years to perform work on the house, then during a divorce your spouse may have some claim to at least part of the house.  

In the state of Missouri, it is presumed that all property acquired during the marriage is marital property, regardless of how the property is titled. Therefore, if you received a gift or inheritance during your marriage, you may be required to show the court it is non-marital property. Proving this could involve showing the court when and how you received the property and showing it was meant for you alone.  

Once all non-marital properties have been set aside, marital assets and debts will be divided, based on a number of factors, including:

  • The economic circumstances of each spouse;
  • Custodial arrangements for any minor children of the marriage;
  • Whether the spouse with primary custody of the minor child or children will receive the marital home;
  • The ways in which each spouse contributed to the acquisition of the marital property, and
  • Whether there was marital misconduct during the marriage, specifically whether there was any dissipation of marital assets by one spouse.

Alimony in Missouri

Depending on the financial circumstances of both spouses now and during the marriage, one spouse may be entitled to maintenance or spousal support from the other spouse. The support is meant to ensure both parties are able to live after the divorce in a way which is similar to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.

Unless a couple can come to a mutually acceptable agreement between themselves regarding alimony, the judge will make the decision based on whether one spouse is at a disadvantage in terms of education or career training, and the other has the financial means to pay the support.  

First, the court will determine if the spouse seeking maintenance has sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs. If the answer to that question is no, the judge will determine whether he/she could become self-supporting given the appropriate training or education. If the couple has a child who requires special care, and that care would prevent the parent from obtaining employment outside the home, the judge will take this into consideration as well. If it is determined that alimony is appropriate, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • Assets awarded each spouse during the divorce;
  • The standard of living maintained during the marriage;
  • Financial resources of the spouse requesting alimony;
  • The amount of time necessary for the spouse requesting alimony to become self-supporting, through education or training;
  • The current earning capacity of each spouse;
  • How long the marriage has lasted;
  • The physical and emotional condition of each spouse, and
  • The age of each spouse;
  • The assets and debts of each spouse; The ability of the obligated spouse to provide the necessary support.

The alimony award may be modifiable or non-modifiable. With a modifiable alimony award, either spouse can ask for a modification of the award if there is a significant change in circumstances. When issuance of alimony is non-modifiable, the maintenance continues even when circumstances change for either spouse, although non-modifiable orders will usually end on a set date or when a terminating event occurs—such as the remarriage of the receiving spouse. In very rare occasions, alimony will truly be permanent, meaning it will last until the death of the receiving spouse.

Child Custody in Missouri

Like all other states, Missouri courts consider the best interests of the child when determining child custody. Several factors will be considered when determining Missouri child custody, such as:  

  • The proposed parenting plan submitted by each parent;
  • The wishes of each parent;
  • The child’s emotional needs;
  • The child’s need to maintain close ties with each parent;
  • The child’s wishes if he or she is old enough and mature enough to make that decision; ·       Relocation plans of either parent;
  • The willingness of each parent to encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent;
  • The mental and physical well-being of each parent, and
  • Whether any history of abuse or neglect on the part of either parent exists.  

There are five types of Missouri custody the court will consider. These include:

  • Joint physical and legal custody for both parents (legal custody involves making major decisions involving education, health, religion, discipline, etc., while physical custody involves where the child actually lives);
  • Joint physical custody to both parents, with legal custody given to one parent;
  • Joint legal custody to both parents, with physical custody given to one parent;
  • Sole custody—legal and physical—to one parent with visitation to the other, or
  • Custody and/or visitation by third parties, such as grandparents.

Child Support in Missouri

Child support is a payment from one parent to the other parent to help cover the costs of raising the child. If both parents share physical and legal custody of the child or children, and both parents have roughly the same level of financial resources, there may not be child support ordered, although this situation is relatively rare.  

In most situations, the custodial parent typically receives child support payments because the law assumes the custodial parent is already spending money directly on the child. The non-custodial parent is generally responsible for making child support payments. Child support is usually paid until the child turns 18, or possibly until the child turns 21 if the child is still in school. A child with a mental or physical incapacity may receive child support for as long as necessary.  

The amount of the child support payment will depend on the number of children, the income of both parents, and certain other factors, such as whether the child or children receive health insurance through one parent’s employment. A parent may not avoid child support responsibilities by refusing to work or working only minimally. In other words, if a parent is willfully unemployed or underemployed, the court can “impute” income, meaning it will come up with an amount the parent would reasonably be making if he or she were working.  

Same-Sex Divorce in Missouri

Throughout the country—and in Missouri—spouses dissolving a same-sex marriage are entitled to the same protections and benefits as those dissolving a “traditional” marriage. The same issues are involved, including the division of assets, allocation of debt, alimony, child custody, and child support.

Despite the fact that same-sex divorces should be handled the same as any other divorce, there are certain difficulties a same-sex couple could face, including child custody issues when one partner has no legal right to the child. It is important for same-sex couples to have a divorce attorney who understands the specific hurdles involved in a same-sex divorce.  

Resources:


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