Missouri divorce details
Uncontested VS Contested Divorce in Missouri
In Missouri, the difference between uncontested and contested divorce is the same as in other state. An uncontested divorce demands a mutual desire to divorce and spouses’ agreement on all significant issues like child custody, parenting time, property and assets division etc. In opposite, a contested divorce implies that there is someone’s defining fault, the case is not at all amicable or just very complex and specific, so the trial is needed as well as a qualified attorney. Both parties may present their evidence to the Judge in order to win a divorce case. Surely, the contested divorce is time-consuming and costs much more than uncontested.
Uncontested Divorce in Missouri
If your situation allows you to choose, an uncontested divorce is definitely better for you both practically and morally. Here are some main advantages of an uncontested divorce:
- It is much more cheaper and easier
- You probably can get it by yourself, even online
- You can get a divorce in a quite short time
- It is less acrimonious
- It is better to end your relationship as peacefully as possible and finally start a new life, than to be involved in a lengthy trial process that just increases your anger and hurt. Remember that your emotions affects your co-parenting (if children are involved).
Though it is very important for the couple to negotiate and be honest and polite, an official and detailed agreement about the terms of their case is still needed. To confirm the spouses’ mutual agreement, an uncontested divorce provides the special form which is called a Settlement agreement. Settlement agreement proves the intention to start an uncontested divorce and covers all the expectation from the divorce results, and so, from your post-divorce way of life. All the issues the spouses agreed are enforced by the court after the judge approved the divorce.
Grounds for Divorce in Missouri
Generally, grounds for divorce define whether your case can be uncontested or not.
Missouri is considered to be a “modified no-fault state”. What does it mean?
Most people prefer to divorce due to irreconcilable differences and some conflict of interest, that had broken the marriage irretrievably. This is the only No-Fault ground for divorce, that likely can help to describe any case if you don’t want to make the details of your personal life public, or really don’t have any claims to your spouse.
But at the same time, Missouri divorce statutes still contain the concept of “misconduct”. The misconduct of your spouse can be expressed as adultery or, for example, cruelty and abuse, and it makes a Fault divorce possible in the state of Missouri.
According to Missouri laws, misconduct can be an important factor to convince a court to regard not equal division of property and debts, the providing of a spousal support or making a decision about child custody in your favor.
Missouri Residency Requirements to File for Divorce
To get a divorce in Missouri you (or your spouse) must be a resident of the state for three months (90 days) or more before filing the dissolution.
Notice, that you can file for divorce only in the court of that county where either you or your spouse lives at present.
How to File for an Uncontested Divorce in Missouri?
You can manage your uncontested divorce whether online or not, with a legal support or by yourself, but these five basic steps will lead you the right direction in any case.
Here we go:
- Complete your paperwork. You can get a needed kit in your county court or download it with our website. Fill the Petition and other papers (Child custody & visitation agreement, Settlement agreement etc.)
- Print it and bring to the court for filing. There you should also pay the filing fee to submit your documents.
- The court reviews the documents and then sends the summons to your spouse. He or she has 30 days after been served to respond it.
Notice! You can attach the “Respondent’s Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” directly to your original paperwork if it is not difficult for you and your spouse to meet and complete the forms together - all at once.
Wait for the final hearing. The 30-days waiting period during which your spouse has time to respond to the petition is still compulsory even if you are so-called “co-petitioners” and the court is already had the Respondent’s Answer.
Attend the final hearing. If there is an uncontested divorce the final hearing is a rather brief and calm process. The Petitioner and the Respondent should give some testimony. If it’s all right with an agreement, the judge signs the order and ex-spouses can get the documents copies.
Do-It-Yourself Divorce in Missouri
Nowadays, the do-it-yourself option is very popular way to end the marriage for a great amount of Missouri couples. It is affordable and quick and, in addition, keeps your family’s failure history to be private. So if you have not any serious complaints and claims to your spouse, the considering a possibility of DIY divorce may be a great idea.
Though you still can read some conflicting reviews about this procedure (some remarks are quite justified, and some aim to exaggerate the risks and motivate people to divorce the old-fashioned way, spending long time & thousands of dollars), - the truth usually is in the middle.
Do-it-yourself divorce being a legitimate and serious procedure like any other type of divorce just requires a reasonable attitude and a compliance with some requirements. But what are the pitfalls of the procedure? And what is the difference between the DIY divorce procedure and the described above uncontested divorce? Let’s figure it out.
The main steps of DIY divorce are the same(!) as for any simplified uncontested case.
The difference is that you hold all the responsibility for the process by yourself. Since an uncontested divorce may be carried out with a legal help, you have the opportunity to fully trust the lawyer about the order of filling out documents and other issues and do nothing but sign some papers that you are told to sign. But to get a do-it-yourself divorce you should be very careful, organized and inquisitive. Here some frequently mistakes you must avoid to have your divorce case successfully completed in a short time:
- Choosing a DIY divorce, when you are not a good candidate for it.
Don't ignore the main condition of successful DIY divorce – the decision to end your marriage should be mutual. You will have to negotiate, meet and compromise if you want your divorce to be quick, accurate and silent. It will be easier if you’ve been married for less than 5 years and you have no children. It will take more time and effort if you have property, bonds, stocks or other investments that need to be divided. And finally, DIY divorce can be risky and even dangerous if you’re divorcing an abusive spouse.
- You let your emotions take control.
It is clear, that when you are going through divorce it’s easy to open up old wounds. Take into account not only your financial condition, but emotional.
- Misunderstandings in child support.
If you have children, don't ignore a parenting plan for child custody. The basic state-mandated child support guideline amount is intended to cover only basic needs, without some unexpected medical expenses, summer rest, tutoring, etc. Sometimes the help of a mediator is needed, to share all the responsibilities and expenses fairly.
- Signing documents that are not clear for you.
It may seem ridiculous, but it's a common problem. Since DIY divorce involves lots of paperwork, reading each form thoroughly and having a clear understanding of it is really essential.
- Time management problems.
Lack of punctuality and poor organizational skills are a huge problem too. The divorce filing process is full of date-specific days to file, waiting periods, etc. It`s a pity when trivial missing the deadlines delays or even invalidate the entire divorce. Your life must go on, but try to plan your time well in these weeks.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
In Missouri, the lawyers’ average hourly rate of $200 becomes one more reason to consider an uncontested divorce, if such an opportunity is real in your case. In addition, when you choose a contested divorce you may need to hire other professionals as well, so eventually you will pay even more.
At the same time, if you decided to hire an attorney even for an uncontested divorce, the lawyer’s fee will still be much lower - about $500.
The minimal cost of divorce in Missouri includes filing fee and sheriff’s fee for serving your spouse with the paperwork (from $163 in most counties to $225 in St. Louis County and $25, respectively).
If you want to fill for a DIY divorce you may use our service and pay $149 both for the right papers kit and for online supp
How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced in Missouri?
As a waiting period in Missouri lasts 30 days, in theory, it is possible to complete the divorce on the 31st day. It is quite a rare situation, but if you and your spouse are co-petitioners and have already agreed about all the issues by the time you file the Petition, everything is possible. In other cases, the time spent on divorce is depended on if your spouse responded in a 30-days term, or he/she is missing and silent.
An average uncontested case usually takes between 50 and 90 days to be completed.
Papers & Documents You Need to Get a Divorce in Missouri
In Missouri, every person, who participates in any family law case and not represented by an attorney, uses the forms approved by the Supreme Court. Surely, your particular case can demand some additional documents, but there is a basic set of forms, which are relevant for all dissolution cases.
These forms are:
- Notarized Petition for Dissolution.
Filing the petition is the first step to officially express your intention to get a divorce. It contains all needed information about the couple and their reasons for divorce.
- Form FI-10: Confidential Case Filing Information Sheet - Domestic Relations Cases.
This form includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and birth dates of both spouses and their children if any.
- Form 14 - Presumed Child Support Amount Worksheet.
Though this form may seem rather tricky, it is obviously aimed to explain the calculation of child support.
- Form 17: Family Court Information Sheet.
This short provides the court with some basic data and information about other related cases previously adjudicated in any court, in which parties been ever involved.
- Parenting Plan (cases with minor children)
This form includes detailed agreements on the custody and visitation.
- Certificate of COPE Attendance (cases with minor children).
- Form CV105: Statement of Marital and Non-Marital Assets and Debts.
- Form CV100: Statement of Income & Expenses.
- Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage.
The final step before getting final court order and the Decree of Dissolution.
How to Serve Your Spouse in Missouri
There are two legally acceptable ways to serve your spouse with a Petition for divorce:
your spouse may receive the paperwork from the sheriff of the county where the Respondent lives. Sheriff’s fee for this service is $25 in Missouri;
also, the Responded can be served with a Petition by one of the private process services, that charges some fee for that as well.
Before bringing the Petition to the court, you should make one more copy in advance. It will come in handy to serve your spouse.
Online Divorce in Missouri
Online divorce is legal procedure in Missouri. In case of an uncontested divorce, there no actual barriers to try this option.
Such online services as this prepare forms for you based on information you provide. Then you can fill out the forms and download all the necessary papers on your computer (to sign them with the court clerk). Also we suggest to prepare or review your forms, so that you can be sure that everything is correct.
Using an online divorce service you haven’t to dig into state’s law to figure out what are the rules and exceptions for your particularly county and situation. Your divorce documents will be customized to your state and county, your children, your income, assets and other factors in your case.
Rules for Child Support and Visitation in Missouri
Missouri law provides and encourages the joint children custody. It is concerned that the best interests of the child are served by frequent and meaningful contact with both parents, besides situations when the court determines both parents as not acceptable custodians for the child (in that case child can be placed with grandparents).
There are two types of a child custody:
- Physical custody. When it is joint it usually means that although the child permanently lives with one of the parents, the other parent has alternate weekends, one night a week and alternate holidays with the child. The one extreme alternative can be awarded if one of the spouses is dangerous for the child. Then he/she might not have even visitation rights, and the other parent receives sole physical custody.
- Legal custody. The state of Missouri favors it to be joint too. It means that both parents have an equal voice in making decisions about such aspects of their child’s life as healthcare, education, and welfare.
Child support can be ordered both when parents have a 50/50 custodial arrangement, or not. Typically the noncustodial parent provides a child support for the parent who has a physical custody. Child support is calculated according to some significant financial grounds: children’s needs and parents’ incomes, children’s physical and emotional condition and way of living prior to divorce, everyday-care expenses, education and so on.
Rules for Spousal Support in Missouri
It is possible to get a spousal support (maintenance) in Missouri, and the grounds for seeking a support are not very strict. Usually, the maintenance is ordered for the spouse who cannot afford even some basic needs or he/she is a custodian of a child whose circumstances make it reasonable not to seek employment outside the home.
The court should take into account length of the marriage and spouses’ conduct during this time. The spousal support is not a tool to “punish” a guilty spouse, it is just aimed to mitigate the financial influence of the divorce for those, who is in need.
Division of Property in Missouri
Missouri is an equitable distribution state. It means that the property is divided in a equitable way - fair but not necessarily equal.
To divide property in Missouri divorce process you should, first of all, define what property is marital (acquired during the marriage) and what is non-marital (acquired prior the marriage or your personal gifts and inheritances during the married life). You should know the exact dates of acquiring a property and be able to prove it. Because though the court must divide only marital property, it firstly presumes that all property acquired during the marriage is marital.
Division of Debt in Missouri
Debts and other liabilities of the spouses are divided during the dissolution process the same way as property. So, the court will have to characterize it as either marital or non-marital and then assigns responsibility for it equitably (in a fair way).
Divorce Mediation in Missouri
Mediation is not required to file a divorce in Missouri, but it is still quite a popular way to solve some problems related to property division, child custody, and others. It happens that some couples just need a mediator to be the buffer between them, some neutral person to help, so mediation is an answer.
The mediator doesn’t give any legal advice to either spouse, even if he/she is a lawyer. Mediator’s main role is to help spouses to negotiate respectfully, to communicate about some difficult issues both honestly and polite and to take into account not only financial condition but emotional.
According to Missouri laws mediation is confidential process, and you should not cite anything said during the mediation, at the final hearing.
Mediation is a reasonable help for your uncontested divorce.
How to Divorce a Missing Spouse in Missouri
If after the 30-days waiting period you cannot define your spouse’s location and you still don’t know whether he/she saw the Petition for divorce, you may claim for divorce by publication. It means that a notice in a legal newspaper officially announces your filing of a divorce for at least 30 days.
Notice! Since your spouse isn’t personally served with the paperwork, so in the case of divorce by publication the court cannot order a child custody or property division. It just ends the marriage.
The mentioned above service by publication is a kind of so-called default divorce. In all cases when the Respondent is missing, a default divorce can be granted. But notice, under these circumstances, the divorce process finalizes according to the terms requested by the Petitioner.
Annulment of the Marriage in Missouri
In fact, an annulment is an official recognition of the marriage as invalid. Every marriage that was registered without compliance with the law in force may be annulled. So, the grounds for an annulment of the marriage in Missouri are fraud, bigamy, and impotence.
The annulment “erases” the marriage, that really had never existed legally.
That's interesting, that in Missouri, you can also obtain an annulment for your divorce.
Legal Separation Missouri
In Missouri, legal separation is called separate maintenance. It is pretty fair, because the court, actually, issues the same orders (about property division, parenting plan and other "material" problems) as in a divorce, but without an official dissolution.
If the spouses holds out hope of reconciliation, a legal separation can be a reasonable option. They remain married but gain some time to solve their spousal problems. The legal separation needs to be canceled only after a full reconciliation.
Same-Sex Divorce in Missouri
Missouri dropped "consensual sodomy" from its statute only in three years after a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Lawrence v. Texas) that found that laws banning same-gender marriages were unconstitutional. It definitely (and unfortunately) made Missouri one of the most intolerant American states.
But the legal landscape of America changed significantly in July 2015, and now, same-sex couples had the fundamental right to marriage in all 50 states. The process for divorce, in states where same-sex marriage is legal, is the same for straight and gay couples.
Military Divorce in Missouri
If either you or your spouse is in the military, you still can file for divorce and the main requirements of serving a Respondent with a paperwork are the same as for a casual case. However, the case can be paused for a time while one of the spouses is in active duty. This means that the court puts the case on hold and does not take any action on issues of child custody, support, maintenance, or division of property until it will be possible for both spouses to handle the divorce personally.
How to Divorce a Spouse in Jail in Missouri
If your spouse is incarcerated, you can file for a default divorce by publication, because he/she still can not attend a final hearing, even though you may locate him/her.
The terms of a termination of the marriage by publication will be the same, as in the case of a missing spouse.
But if you insist on the fault-based divorce, your case will be delayed.
Missouri Divorce Filing Fee
The filing fee is the basic pay for any type of divorce. It is charged in your county court when you bring the Petition to sign with the clerk. In Missouri, an average filing fee is about $163, though it can vary depending on where you live. $25 of the sheriff’s fee is also basic and mandatory unless you use a private process service to serve your spouse with the Petition.
Can a Filing Fee Be Waived?
Yes, you can request a fee waiver and not to pay a filing fee, if you can prove that you really can not afford any additional costs. The court may ask you to provide some documents which include data of your low income.
Also, Missouri’s statutes include provisions for one spouse paying the other’s legal fees in situations where his income is significantly more.
How We Can Help
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