Missouri Divorce Process
Despite the best intentions of newly married couples, marriages often come undone for various reasons and necessitate divorce. In Missouri, as in other states, the parties don't need to prove specific rationale (or "grounds") for divorce. The process differs not only from state to state, but sometimes there may be procedures or forms specific to a particular county as well. In any event, having a general understanding of the process will ensure greater success.
Missouri Divorce Process: The Basics
Most individuals filing for divorce (called the "petitioner") work with an attorney, but the basic steps to filing for divorce in Missouri are listed below.
- Petition - The petition, filed by the petitioner, informs the court about the nature of the case, the identity of the other spouse (the "respondent"), and the desired outcome, or "relief." Petitions typically include requests for property division, child custody, and related matters.
- Verification & Filing - Before the petition is filed, the petitioner must verify it through sworn affirmation (under oath) with a notary public. Then, the petition is filed in the county where either the petitioner or respondent lives.
- Additional Forms - Depending on the nature of your divorce, you also may need to file an "Income and Expense Statement," "Statement of Property and Debt," and/or other forms.
- Notification - The other spouse may be notified of the divorce filing via personal service, special process server, service by publication, or by accepting the petition in person and signing a waiver of service.
- Answer - After being served, the respondent has 30 days in which to file a written response known as the "answer."
- If Uncontested - If the parties agree on all the terms, including child custody and property division, then it's considered "uncontested" and typically proceeds much more quickly.
- Hearing - If the divorce is contested (most common), then the court will schedule a hearing. At the hearing, the petitioner and respondent each present evidence (such as testimony, documents, etc.) to support their arguments. The judge will then give his or her ruling, often verbally, which becomes final 30 days later.
Additional information and official forms can be found in the table below.
Missouri Revised Statutes Section 452.025, et seq.
Missouri Divorce Forms
Note: Additional forms related to Missouri divorce, including visitation and child support, can be found here.
Grounds for Divorce
- Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage ("no-fault")
- The respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent
- The respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
- The respondent has abandoned the petitioner for a continuous period of at least six months preceding the presentation of the petition
- The parties have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for a continuous period of 12 months immediately preceding the filing of the petition
- The parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least twenty-four months preceding the filing of the petition
Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through the enactment of new legislation but also through court decisions and other means. Contact a Missouri family law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
Missouri Divorce Process: Related Resources
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Divorce can be quite difficult in a number of ways, not least of which is the emotional aspect of it all. Staying focused on the law and the process isn't easy, which is why it's often in your best interests to work with a divorce attorney. If you need help figuring out the divorce process in Missouri, have a divorce lawyer get you started with a free legal evaluation.