If you're filing for divorce in the state of Missouri, one of the first things you might want to know is, "How long is this going to take?" Missouri's laws -- like all state laws -- establish a minimum waiting period after an initial petition is filed before a divorce is final. If you and your spouse agree on everything, the divorce process in Missouri can be expeditious. However, there are several things that can hold up your case and prevent you from getting divorced expeditiously. Let's take a look at some possible scenarios.
Missouri Residency Requirements
Each state establishes residency requirements for parties who wish to divorce, and Missouri is no exception. Before you file for divorce in Missouri, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for 90 days. Members of the armed services who are stationed in Missouri must also be stationed in the state for that same amount of time. You or your spouse must also remain in the state for at least 30 days after the petition is filed. If you or your spouse has just moved to Missouri, you won't be able to file a petition for divorce right away -- you'll have to wait until one of you has established residency. This can delay your ability to get a quick divorce. (Reference 1: Section 452.305)
Missouri and No-Fault Divorce
The only grounds for dissolution of a marriage in Missouri is if the court determines that a marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no likelihood that it can be preserved. If you and your spouse both concur, you may be able to hasten your divorce along. However, if your spouse denies under oath that your marriage is irretrievably broken, the court is permitted to consider matter this for no less than 30 days nor longer than six months. While the court cannot force a couple to attend marriage counseling in order to get a divorce, the court can suggest counseling to determine if what your spouse stated is indeed true. The court will then make a determination if the marriage cannot be preserved at a later hearing. (Reference 1: Sections 452.300 and 452.320)
Missouri divides community property equitably -- in a manner it deems fair. If you and your spouse agree on how to split your marital assets and debt and can provide the court a proposed settlement, you'll save on both time and legal expenses. But if you disagree, the divorce process can drag on. Ultimately, the court will decide how community property will be divided rather than letting your reach your own conclusion. (Reference 1: Sec. 452.330)
Issues Regarding Children
When it comes to child custody, it's important that a couple come to a meeting of the minds, as this is the area that can prolong a divorce simply by virtue of state requirements. Why? Because Missouri statute establishes a certain protocol for divorcing parents -- even those who are not at odds. Any time a person files a petition to dissolve a marriage in Missouri and the couple has minor children, both parents are required to attend educational sessions. If there is great contention between you and your spouse and you cannot agree on who gets custody, the court can order both parents to attend alternative dispute resolution or mediation, or it can set a hearing on the issue. (Reference 1: Sections 452.372 and 452.605)
What Else Prolongs a Divorce in Missouri?
While you might want your divorce to be expeditious, there are any number of possible pitfalls and "to dos" that can cause any number of delays. Filing a petition involves serving your spouse with notice -- sometimes this means that you must find him first. It takes time to draft a good parenting plan to submit to the court. If you and your spouse have children and there has been domestic abuse in your marriage, the court will set an additional hearing to determine visitation rights of the abusive spouse -- if any. (Reference 1: 452.375) The court can also order counseling for minor children, if it deems appropriate. However, if you and your spouse have no minor children and have come to a prior agreement with respect to the division of your marital estate, your divorce could be final within 30 days after the filing date.