A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Missouri
When you file for divorce in Missouri, one of the best things you can do is to arm yourself with the information you’ll need to see you through the process from start to finish.
Divorce can be intimidating and disruptive on many levels, and the best way to minimize the impacts on your life is to do your homework so that you can best protect yourself as you try to move to the next chapter.
Here are several things you should know as you begin the process of filing for divorce in Missouri.
- Gathering Important Financial Information
- Deciding How You Will Proceed With Your Divorce
- Filling Out the Necessary Forms
- Filing Your Documents
- Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
- Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Missouri
Gathering your important information
No matter your circumstances, you will benefit from being organized at the outset when it comes to tracking down the financial documentation that you’ll need.
Many parts of divorce can be overwhelming, so any steps you can take to save time and reduce stress and anxiety should be a priority for you early in the process.
Decide how you will proceed with your divorce
Once you or your spouse has made the decision to get a divorce, you need to decide how to get divorced. You have several options, driven in part by your relationship with your spouse and how well you can work together to reach a resolution.
Here are the most common types of divorce:
- Collaborative divorce
So, which option is right for you? To answer that, you really need to weigh the pros and cons and think about your goals for the process.
Fill Out the Necessary Forms to Start the Process
You will need to complete several forms and submit them to start the divorce process. If you’re using an attorney, they will make sure you are using the right forms and that they are filled out correctly.
To file for divorce in Missouri, you need to submit a “Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage”, along with any other divorce papers that are required for your specific circumstances. The Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage is the main divorce document.
If you have children, you will need to complete a parenting plan and a form that details all of the custody decisions that you and your spouse agree on. Ideally, you and your spouse will agree on everything and you can submit the form together. If you do not agree, you can both submit a parenting plan. Keep in mind, if you both submit a parenting plan, it will be the judge who decides the final terms of custody.
You will also need to submit a “Confidential Case Filing Information Sheet” with your divorce documents.
File Your Documents
After you have completed your forms, you will need to file the paperwork at the county court where you or your spouse have lived for at least 90 days. The completed forms must be notarized by a notary public before they will be accepted. Many banks offer notary services. The court where you submit the documents may also have a notary available.
When you file your forms, you will also need to pay a filing fee as well. Fees vary by county but average between $150 to $200. In St. Louis county, these fees are $225.
There will also be a fee to have the paperwork served on your spouse. Depending on the method you choose, this may run about $25 to $50.
If you can’t afford to pay these fees, you can request a waiver that will need to be reviewed by the court for possible approval.
Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
When you file your petition for dissolution, a copy will be delivered to the sheriff or a process server if you request. You cannot serve the papers yourself. Either the sheriff or process server will serve the petition on your spouse and will make a report to the court that the petition was served.
If you are not able to serve your spouse with the divorce paperwork, you may still obtain a divorce by publication. A public legal notice announcing your filing of the divorce will be placed in a legal newspaper for at least 30 days.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Missouri
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Missouri?
When you file for divorce, you are required to pay a filing fee that can range from about $150 up to $225 if you file in St. Louis County. You will also need to file a process of service fee to make sure your spouse is served properly with your divorce complaint. This can run about $25 to $50 and possibly more depending on the method you use.
Depending on the county where papers are filed, there may be some added miscellaneous costs as well.
Can divorce fees be waived in Missouri?
It may be possible to have obtain a fee waiver if your income falls below the federal poverty level. In some cases, it is also possible that a judge might order one spouse to pay the other’s legal fees where there is a large disparity of income. Missouri also has a relatively extensive legal aid network that you may be able to access as well.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Missouri?
At a minimum, a dissolution of marriage cannot be granted until at least 30 days after a Petition for Dissolution has been filed with the court. However, in most cases you will need to wait a minimum of 30 days from the date the other spouse officially receives the petition.
Contested divorces or divorces where negotiations must take place regarding custody, alimony, child support and a division of assets will increase the time frame that it takes to reach a settlement. It is not uncommon for some high asset or hotly contested divorces to take as much as one to two years or more. Much of the duration depends on your personal circumstances.
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Missouri?
You or your spouse must have been a resident of Missouri for at least 90 days immediately preceding the filing of a petition for dissolution.
Can I file for divorce in Missouri without using a lawyer?
In some instances, you can file for divorce without using a lawyer.
You don’t have to hire an attorney to file for an uncontested divorce in Missouri. If you file your divorce without an attorney, you are considered pro se (pronounced pro say).
The forms are designed for uncontested divorces, meaning both parties agree all issues regarding property and debt division and, if relevant, child support, custody and visitation.
Another way to avoid using a lawyer while going through a divorce in Missouri is through the use of a mediator, as long as both you and your spouse agree on this option. Over the course of one or more sessions, a mediator will review financial documents, forms and worksheets as part of a discovery process and then guide you and your spouse through a series of discussions about the outstanding issues, attempting to peacefully resolve things such as child support and custody, alimony and a division of assets.
Once these issues are resolved, a mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding and you will file this document with the court as part of your divorce process. Going this route saves time, money and stress in most cases.
Can I get a divorce in Missouri if I am pregnant?
Missouri law dictates that a final dissolution of marriage cannot be granted while a wife is pregnant. This is because the court has to rule on the paternity of the unborn child. However, you can move forward with legal separation.
How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Missouri?
If you or your spouse are a member of the military and want to get a divorce in Missouri, you or your spouse live or be stationed in the state as a requirement. The grounds for a military divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce.
Just as in a civilian divorce, once paperwork has been filed in Missouri to begin a divorce, copies must be served on a spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. However, when that spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments. They are also protected from being held in default from failing to respond in a timely manner.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty. A service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.
Normal equitable property division laws apply for a military divorce in Missouri, but the federal government also protects military personnel through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act that governs how military benefits are calculated when a divorce takes place.
Federal laws will not allow a military members retirement to be distributed to a spouse unless the couple has been married for 10 years or more while the service member was on active duty.
Normal Missouri child support guidelines, worksheets and schedules are used to determine the proper amount of support to be paid, but federal law dictates that combined child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemembers pay and allowances.
Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources:
- How to File for Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce
- What Are The Types of Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce