In order to file for divorce in the state of Missouri, one or both parties must meet the residency requirement. The residency requirement for Missouri is that you must have resided in the state for at least 90 days before filing for divorce. If not, then the couple will need to wait until that period has passed to file for divorce in a Missouri state court.

Next, the divorcing couple must determine whether they are filing for a no-fault or a fault-based divorce. Missouri is one of only a handful of states remaining that permits a married couple to file for a fault-based divorce. For instance, you may be able to file for a fault-based divorce in Missouri if your spouse has committed adultery or has abandoned you for at least 6 consecutive months. 

On the other hand, a married couple filing for a no-fault divorce in Missouri will need to claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken since Missouri is a limited no-fault state.

After the reason for filing for divorce is determined and the residency requirement is met, a divorcing couple will also be required to address other issues that the divorce may impact, such as child custody, alimony, divisions of property, and any other problems that may arise in a couple’s marriage. 

What is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation in Missouri?

As is the case in most states, the main difference between a divorce and a separation in the state of Missouri is that the latter will not officially terminate the marriage. In contrast, a divorce will legally end a marriage. However, much like a divorce, married couples who petition for legal separation will need to create a separation agreement that must be approved by a court. 

A separation agreement will typically include the legal rights and duties of both spouses concerning the division of property, child custody, spousal support, and various other issues that may need to be worked out between the parties.

If the court approves the separating couple’s legal separation agreement, then it will become binding upon the parties and can therefore legally be enforced by a court. Courts will normally accept a separation agreement if it seems to treat both parties fairly and it is in writing. This document may then be used as part of the final divorce settlement agreement if the parties proceed to get a divorce after the period of legal separation has ended.

What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?

In order to initiate the process to get a divorce in Missouri, an individual will need to file the forms for a Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage in the appropriate Missouri state court located in their county. 

Depending on the circumstances of the parties’ divorce, some other forms that a couple filing for divorce in Missouri may need to file include: 

  • A statement of expenses and earned income;
  • A statement of property and debt;
  • A proposed separation agreement;
  • A filing information sheet;
  • A parenting plan; and 
  • A notice of hearing. 

Additionally, it is also important to note that each county court in Missouri may have its own separate rules and filing requirements for a divorce. Thus, a person who is filing for divorce should be sure to check the local rules and requirements for their Missouri county, as well as should consider hiring a local divorce law attorney for further legal guidance.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

In general, there are two main sources of rules that govern the division and distribution of property for divorce cases in most states. These include the equitable distribution standard and the community property standard. The state of Missouri follows the standard for equitable distribution. This means that couples who file for divorce in Missouri can expect to have all property that is marital property divided fairly and evenly as determined by a court.

Marital property, sometimes known as community property, refers to the funds, assets, and property that a married couple acquires during their marriage. Property that is deemed to be marital property will be subject to division and distributed to each of the parties in equal measure upon divorce.

On the other hand, property that is considered to be separate property will likely be returned to the spouse who originally owed it. Separate property is defined as any property that belonged to a spouse before the marriage or was received during the marriage as an assigned inheritance or as a personal gift. Hence, why it is so important for each of the parties in a divorce to keep track of who owns what property.

In certain circumstances, separate property can be transformed into marital property and will then need to be allocated to both spouses, regardless of who initially owned the property. This can often occur when one spouse owns property prior to the marriage and then opts to put their spouse on the title or deed to the property. By placing a spouse’s name on the title deed documents, it serves as evidence that both spouses are co-owners of that property.

What Should You Do if There are Children Involved?

If the divorcing parties also have children together, then issues concerning child custody, child visitation, and child support must be discussed as well. In most divorce cases, the judge will rule on these duties at the same time that they issue the final divorce decree. However, the parties may opt to resolve child-related issues either before or after the divorce, but it might cost them more in legal fees.

No matter which spouse obtains physical custody over the children in a divorce or legal separation, both spouses will have a legal obligation to support their children even after the marriage ends. At the very least, the court will likely order the noncustodial spouse to make monthly child support payments to the custodial spouse. 

To make this part of the process easier, the spouses should try to cooperate with one another by discussing these issues and reaching a compromise before the matter needs to come before a court. Spouses who intend to get a divorce can do this by attending mediation or holding informal negotiation sessions, with or without counsel.

Do You Need to Pay Alimony?

A judge may order one of the spouses in a divorce case to pay the other spouse alimony or spousal support. Alimony payments are generally made on a monthly or weekly basis. Alimony may also be ordered on either a temporary or permanent basis. However, alimony may be terminated by the court if the receiving party gets remarried, cohabitates with another party, conceives a child with a third party, or becomes deceased. 

Some factors that a Missouri state court may evaluate when determining whether to impose spousal support on one of the parties in a divorce case may include the following:

  • The length of a divorcing married couple’s marriage;
  • The separate income and earning capacity of each spouse;
  • The divorcing couple’s lifestyle during the marriage; 
  • The age, mental well-being, and physical health of each of the spouses;
  • Whether one of the spouse’s provided complete financial support for the other spouse during the marriage (e.g., if one spouse was enrolled in a graduate program); 
  • Which of the spouses is gaining physical custody over the children; and/or
  • The ability of each individual spouse to pay for both alimony and their own personal needs.

Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

Although you do not necessarily need to hire a divorce law attorney in order to file for divorce, it is generally recommended that you consult one for legal advice on any requirements that you do not understand.

You may also want to consider hiring a Missouri divorce lawyer in your county if you need to appear in a Missouri state court and require legal representation. Additionally, you should retain a Missouri divorce lawyer if you need assistance with a property division issue.

If you are unsure of where to begin your search for the right divorce lawyer in Missouri or if you would like to find some price quotes on the average cost of a divorce lawyer in your county, then you should consider signing up for a free account with LegalMatch. LegalMatch employs a special matching software that can help you to connect with a divorce lawyer in Missouri. To learn more about how LegalMatch works, click on the link here.