How to File Divorce in Missouri

How to File Divorce in Missouri

Missouri is called the “Show-Me State,” supposedly because a Congressman from the state said he would not just believe something another Congressman said with “frothy eloquence.”  

You are going to have to “show me” before I believe you, the Missouri Congressman said. Luckily for couples that want to split up, Missouri has made it relatively simple to make the showings necessary for a divorce.  

Must be a resident

Missouri will only grant a divorce if at least one spouse has been a resident of the state for at least 90 days.  

No fault only

Many states allow one spouse to use a “fault” committed by the other spouse as grounds justifying divorce.

These can be things like adultery, abuse, or drug addictions.  That used to be the only way to get divorced in America. Today, most divorces are granted on “no-fault” grounds.  That means that neither spouse did anything bad. The couple just wants to break up and go their separate ways.

Fault concepts are not completely gone

Missouri has only no-fault grounds for divorce, but fault concepts are not completely gone.  The law says if both parties agree the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” then the judge is required to order a dissolution of the marriage also known as a divorce.  

The same thing is true if one spouse says the marriage is over and the other spouse does not deny it.

In the past, a spouse facing divorce could defend against the divorce and a court could realistically refuse to grant the divorce.  That is not likely today.

If one spouse were to deny that a marriage is “irretrievably broken,” then the spouse that wants a divorce has five options for showing the marriage is indeed over.

The spouse seeking divorce can show adultery or abandonment.

These are traditional fault grounds.  The spouse that wants the divorce can also show the marriage is broken by showing the couple has lived separately for two years, or one year by agreement.  

If one spouse wants out of the marriage the court will allow that

None of that is necessary, though, because one spouse can be granted a divorce because the other spouse “has behaved in such a way” that the other spouse “cannot reasonably be expected to live” with the other.  In short, if one spouse wants out of the marriage the court will allow that.

Contested proceedings are complicated

The standard divorce procedure laid out in Missouri law looks a lot like any other lawsuit.  One spouse will file what is called “petition” for divorce, and then the other spouse can file an “answer.” 

All defenses to divorce, other than claiming the marriage is not irretrievably broken, have been abolished.   This process can drag on for months while the court considers issues like splitting up the property, child custody, and child support

An uncontested divorce will be much faster

An uncontested divorce will be much faster and less expensive.  That requires the spouses to agree on issues of money and children and then present their agreement to the court for approval instead of requiring the judge to make a new decision. 

Keep in mind that coming to an agreement does not necessarily require a great working relationship.  A couple can hire a lawyer together that can serve as a mediator, or they can each hire their own lawyer to let the professionals sort things out.  

The state has adopted forms that can make the process much easier.

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