While retaining an attorney to handle your divorce is advisable, Missouri does allow you to file your divorce petition on your own behalf. The process generally includes drafting a petition for divorce in which you tell the court the basis for your request. If your divorce is contested (your spouse disputes the divorce claim), the matter will proceed to a contested hearing or trial. If your divorce is uncontested, however, Missouri allows for a simplified dissolution process in which both spouses file a joint dissolution petition.
Draft your petition for dissolution of marriage. You can obtain a blank petition from the clerk's office of your local circuit courthouse. Missouri law allows you to claim either a fault, or no-fault divorce. If your spouse has committed adultery or other harmful or disloyal acts, you may claim a fault basis. You have the option to plead irreconcilable differences if there has been no specific spousal misconduct. If the petition is uncontested, you can include a marital asset distribution, along with any child custody and visitation arrangements you and your spouse have mutually agreed upon. Once the petition is completed, have the petition notarized and signed by both you and your spouse.
File your petition in circuit court, and pay the filing fees. Filing fees are substantial in divorce proceedings. For instance, divorce petition filing fees range from $132 to $192 in Clay County as of 2010, depending upon whether there are children of the marriage or not. Once filed, you will receive a date on your petition. If the petition has not been agreed upon, provide service to your spouse via a special process server.
Resolution of your petition. If the petition is agreed upon, the court will review it and issue a final decree. If the petition is contested, your spouse will have the opportunity to review the petition and request time to prepare his or her defense, or retain an attorney on the matter. If contested, the matter will be set for a hearing.