How to File for Divorce in Missouri

By Michelle Leach

Missouri is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. This means that, as long as both parties agree, they can file a joint petition stating that the marriage is simply "irretrievably broken." Things get a bit more complicated when one party doesn't agree with the grounds of divorce or when other disputes arise, such as those over property or children. One must establish cause for divorce, and he should seek outside help to remedy a sticky situation.

Make sure you can file in the state in the first place. Did you just move to Missouri? If you've been in the state for less than 90 days, you'll have to file elsewhere because you must be resident for at least that period of time to even begin the process.

File for petition for dissolution of marriage with the circuit court. If Step 1 is doable, you'll want to start by filing. Papers will be drawn up, and your spouse will be served. It can go one of two ways at this time: The other party agrees and signs, or the party disagrees and refuses to move the process forward. If its mutual on all fronts, matters of property, debt, child custody, and support will be finalized at a later date in court. If not, there are additional steps.

Establish motivation for divorce. If there is a dispute over the divorce, the filing party must prove one or more reasons for dissolution: adultery, behavior that makes it unreasonable to stay with the spouse (such as abuse), abandonment for at least six months, voluntary separation for more than a year, and any separation that goes on for more than two years.

Get a hearing set. At this point, the court will set a hearing. It will suggest counseling. In addition, if an agreement can't be reached regarding children, a request can be made for temporary solutions, such as temporary custody and child support orders. A guardian will also be appointed to the children until the quarrel is resolved. Keep in mind that these additional services must be shared equitably. The sooner you agree, the less money you'll pay in additional fees. That could save you thousands.

Keep in mind assets will be divided equitably. This isn't completely a straight split down the middle. Some items, such as gifts, are not thrown into the pool of assets to be divided. Other things will be taken into account when dividing property, such as the economic circumstances of each person, their contribution to the property, their conduct, and the custodial arrangement.

Attend that trial. It seems simple, but this is not the point to be late or make some sort of statement about your absence. This is the time when everyone must appear, and final judgments will be made. At this point, the dissolution of marriage can be finalized.

About the Author

Since 2000 reporting and writing has taken Michelle Leach to Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, D.C., Chicago, London and Sydney, Australia. Her stories have appeared in various media outlets including NBC's "The Today Show," Reuters, Chicagoland dailies and network affiliates across the United States. Leach has a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor's degree in journalism/politics from Lake Forest College.

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