The Basics of Divorce in Missouri
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If you are considering filing for divorce, or if you have been served with papers, it is vital that you understand your options. Knowing your rights and being informed of the general legal process can help you expect how your case will proceed through the legal system.
In order to divorce in the state of Missouri, you must meet the following requirements:
- Residency: To file for divorce in Missouri, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days prior to initiating divorce proceedings.
- Jurisdiction: Divorce proceedings may take place in the county where either spouse resides. Your attorney can help you understand jurisdiction issues.
Does Missouri Recognize 50/50 Division of Property and Assets?
Missouri does not split property and assets 50/50. Instead, our state abides by the notion of equitable distribution. Each spouse is expected to receive what is fair or belongs to them respectively. Therefore, each spouse does not receive an equal share. The courts will examine factors such as each spouse's income, the value of the property and assets, the circumstances or grounds for divorce, and considerations for the children's living situations. You can read more about Property Division specifically on this page.
Grounds for Divorce in Missouri
Because Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, a divorce can be granted if the court finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no likelihood of preserving it. This is the quickest and easiest way to obtain a dissolution of marriage. Many cases, however, involve heated disputes between spouses and take much longer to settle. If one party denies that the marriage is in fact irretrievably broken, the court analyzes several factors and the spouse petitioning for divorce must provide proof of grounds for divorce.
Your attorney can assist you with this, but common grounds for divorce in Missouri include:
- The spouse who is not seeking the divorce (respondent) committed adultery
- The respondent behaved in such a way that continuing to live together is intolerable
- The respondent abandoned the petitioner for at least six months
- The parties have lived separate and apart for at least 12 months by mutual agreement
- The parties have lived separate and apart for at least two years
Filing for Divorce: Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
This is a request that the court dissolve your marriage, and it is the first document that is filed. This document sets out facts that tell the court that it has the power to grant your divorce.
It requires certain information, such as:
- Proof that you were a resident of the State of Missouri for at least 90 days
- The date of your marriage
- The date of your legal separation
- The names and dates of birth of the children
- Whether either spouse is in the Armed Forces
Statements of Property
This document is filed at the same time as the Petition, and it sets out all of your property, the value of the property, and whether you consider the property to be joint or separate. This document must be prepared with your lawyer, as it can be used against you at trial.
Service of Process
The next step in filing is the Service of Process. Once you have filed for divorce, all of the documents you have filed with the state of Missouri are referred to as Service Documents. They must be delivered by a Sheriff or a Special Process Server to your spouse. They are hand-deliver to the Respondent's home, place of employment, or any other place where they can be found.
Discovery is the process where each party takes steps to find out information and obtain documentation about the issues involved in the filing for divorce.
Discovery takes many forms, including:
- Interrogatories, or written questions prepared by a lawyer
- Requests for Production - demands made by a lawyer, asking to produce documents like pay stubs, tax returns, or retirement plan statements
- Depositions allow each party to sit down with the other party and have their respective lawyer ask questions of the other side under oath
- Subpoenas allow your lawyer to request the testimony and documentation from third parties about issues relevant in your filing for divorce
Once you have filed for divorce, the parties meet with the judge to settle case or narrow the issues for trial. The Judge usually takes this opportunity to give the parties an idea of his or her interpretation of the law so that everyone comes away with an idea of how the court may rule.
Frequently Asked Divorce Questions
Should I Get a Divorce?
Ultimately, only the client can answer this question for themselves-- but it is normal to approach prospective representation with this uncertainty. There are many factors to consider and every client's circumstances are different.
Is Divorce my Only Option?
If you are facing significant turbulence in your marriage, divorce isn't necessarily your only option. In many cases, legal separation can provide the legal partitioning the couple needs to re-evaluate their partnership while still legally retaining the marriage. In rarer cases, an annulment may be appropriate, as well. In either case, however, having dedicated, vigilant representation by your side is highly advisable to help keep your interests protected and spoken for.
Do We Have to go to Court?
Divorce used to be a lengthy courtroom matter regardless of the circumstances of the couple. However, the law now recognizes that not every couple requires a protracted, adversarial courtroom process to dissolve their marriage. With the growing popularity of mediation and collaborative divorce, more and more couples who can still be cordial with each other can work together to decide the terms of their divorce and minimize their time spent in the courtroom.
How Will X Turn Out in my Case?
Divorce clients usually come to firm several goals or concerns in mind for their life post-divorce. Often times, they can concern any children involved, but specific financial concerns are also common, as well.
Key concerns for those getting divorced include:
- Custody and visitation
- Child support
- Property division
- Spousal maintenance (alimony)
- Any pre or post marital agreements
No matter what your specific concerns may be, our team is ready to listen. Our attorneys have tremendous legal experience, and we are ready to handle a vast array of different divorce circumstances and have the strategies to make your specific goals and concerns a priority in our approach to your case.
How Long is the Divorce Process?
The length of the divorce process can vary depending on several factors – the biggest factor, however, comes down to how much you want to fight. A divorce that involves willing parties that are in agreement will take significantly less time than a divorce involving opposition and disagreements. Once the papers are filed with the court, the process is out of your hands. The time it takes for the divorce to be finalized can take anywhere from six weeks to a year.
How Expensive Will my Divorce Be?
This answer will be different for every client and depends on many different factors. Will their divorce be collaborative? Is it a military divorce? Do you and your spouse disagree over the terms of your divorce? These are just some of the major factors that will determine the legal and court fees associated with your case.
At Kallen Law Firm, however, we always make swift, cost-effective approaches to our client's cases a priority. We understand that, often, both spouses are concerned with how their personal finances will fare post-divorce. We work diligently to assess our clients' circumstances, set clear goals, and then pursue them as swiftly and effectively as possible.
Should I Get a Divorce if my Spouse is Abusive?
If you are now suffering, or you have suffered, from emotional or physical abuse, there is no time like the present to move on with your life and file for divorce. If your spouse has been abusive there are issues other than getting a divorce that must be addressed to help you and your children leave safely.
You should know that in most cases, leaving an abusive partner will lead to an increase in abuse and danger for the abused spouse. For this reason, if there has been ANY physical abuse, or if there has been emotional abuse and you fear it may escalate to physical abuse, it is important to involve the police and the courts as soon as possible to help ensure your safety and the safety of your children.
Should I Get a Divorce if We Just Do Not Get Along?
Every relationship has problems and challenges. As attorneys in St. Louis, we have seen this time and time again and can offer some guidance. If you think that getting a divorce is the best solution, it is important to keep in mind that things may not always work out perfectly after the divorce, especially if children are involved.
Some factors to consider include:
- Would getting a divorce improve my quality of life?
- What impact would getting a divorce have on my finances?
- What would getting a divorce mean for my children?
- How would getting a divorce impact a military family?
Call our St. Louis lawyers at 314.441.7793 to get started. Our attorneys represent clients in Chesterfield, St. Charles, and surrounding areas.
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