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How to Get a Divorce in Missouri

How to Get a Divorce in Missouri

Divorce is never an easy decision, but if you’ve reached the point where it’s the best option for you and your spouse, it’s important to understand the process and requirements for obtaining a divorce in your state. If you’re a resident of Missouri and considering divorce, this article will guide you through the essential steps and provide answers to frequently asked questions.

Residency Requirements
To file for divorce in Missouri, either you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days before filing. Additionally, the divorce must be filed in the county where either you or your spouse resides.

Legal Grounds for Divorce
Missouri allows both no-fault and fault-based divorce. No-fault divorce is the most common option, where you can simply state that the marriage is irretrievably broken. No proof or evidence is required other than the belief that the marriage is beyond repair.

Fault-based divorce, on the other hand, requires proving specific grounds such as adultery, abandonment, abuse, or cruel treatment. It’s important to note that fault-based divorces can be more time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining due to the need for providing evidence to support your claims.

Filing the Petition
To initiate the divorce process, you need to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the appropriate court in your county. This document outlines the basic information of your marriage, including names, addresses, and any children involved. It also states your grounds for divorce and any requests for child custody, support, alimony, or property division.

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Serving the Petition
After filing the petition, you must serve a copy to your spouse. This can be done through personal service by a sheriff or process server, or by certified mail with return receipt requested. Once served, your spouse has 30 days to respond to the petition.

Temporary Orders
If necessary, you or your spouse can request temporary orders during the divorce process. These orders can address issues such as child custody, support, visitation, and the use of marital property. Temporary orders provide stability until the final divorce decree is issued.

Negotiating a Settlement
Many divorces in Missouri are resolved through negotiation, mediation, or collaboration. This allows both parties to work together to reach a settlement agreement without going to trial. A settlement agreement addresses all aspects of the divorce, including child custody, visitation, support, division of assets and debts, and alimony if applicable.

If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on your own, the court may order mediation or appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of any involved children. Mediation is a non-adversarial process where a neutral third party helps facilitate discussions and reach a mutually acceptable resolution.

Court Proceedings
If you and your spouse are unable to reach a settlement through negotiation or mediation, your case will go to trial. During the trial, both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses. The judge will then make decisions regarding child custody, support, property division, and any other unresolved issues.

Finalizing the Divorce
Once a judgment is issued, either by agreement or after a trial, the court will issue a final divorce decree. This document officially ends the marriage and includes all the decisions made regarding child custody, visitation, support, property division, and alimony. It’s important to comply with the terms of the divorce decree to avoid any legal consequences.

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Q: How long does it take to get a divorce in Missouri?
A: The timeline for divorce in Missouri varies depending on the complexity of the case and whether it’s contested or uncontested. On average, it can take anywhere from several months to over a year.

Q: Can I get a divorce without hiring an attorney?
A: While it’s possible to navigate the divorce process without an attorney, it’s highly recommended to seek legal advice, especially if your divorce involves complex issues or disputes.

Q: Can we use the same attorney for our divorce?
A: No, it is not advisable to use the same attorney for both parties in a divorce. Each spouse should have their own attorney to ensure their individual interests are represented.

Q: What if my spouse refuses to respond to the divorce petition?
A: If your spouse fails to respond within the allotted time, you can request the court to issue a default judgment, which means the divorce will proceed without their involvement.

Q: What happens to our property in a divorce?
A: Missouri follows an equitable distribution principle, which means the court will divide marital property and debts fairly but not necessarily equally. Factors such as each party’s financial situation, contribution to the marriage, and the length of the marriage are considered.

Divorce can be a challenging and emotional process, but understanding the necessary steps and requirements in Missouri can help you navigate it more smoothly. It’s always advisable to consult with a qualified family law attorney who can guide you through the process and protect your rights and interests.

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