MISSOURI DIVORCE LAW
Deciding on whether to file for divorce can be an emotional and difficult decision. If you are granted a divorce in Missouri your marriage will legally end and you and your ex-spouse will become single and be able to re-marry. Divorce, or “dissolution of marriage,” may not be a simple task as there are many options to consider in Missouri such as legal separation, grounds for divorce, annulment, and property division. You should discuss your divorce with a Missouri divorce attorney.
Missouri has formal procedures for legal separation and they are granted on the same grounds as a divorce (see “Grounds for Divorce” below). Nearly all issues resolved in divorce can also be resolved via separate maintenance agreements as part of the legal separation process. The Missouri court will grant a legal separation if it finds that: (1) there remains a reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and that therefore the marriage is not irretrievably broken; and (2) the court has considered and made provisions for the custody and the support of each child, the maintenance of either spouse, and the disposition of property.
Grounds For Divorce
When filing for divorce in Missouri, you will need to state the reason you want to obtain a divorce otherwise known as “grounds for divorce.” Missouri has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault is when a party files for divorce and states that neither spouse is at fault for the divorce. For divorces based on no-fault grounds, the parties must merely show an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Fault-based is when a party files for divorce and claims that the other spouse is at fault for the divorce. Fault-based grounds for divorce require significantly more specific reasons, such as adultery, one party’s “intolerable behavior,” abandonment for more than six months, or both parties agreeing to the dissolution of the marriage and living separately and apart for more than one year, or both parties living separately and apart for more than two years. You should contact a Missouri divorce attorney, as filing for divorce can be complicated and emotional matter.
Divorce Residency Requirements
To file for divorce, either party must have been a Missouri resident for at least one year before filing for divorce and the petition must be filed in the circuit court for the county in which either party resides.
Availability of Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures:
Joint petitions may be filed in which both parties are referred to as “co-petitioners” rather than “petitioner” and “respondent.” This negates the adversarial nature of the divorce filing, and signals to the court that the parties are seeking a quick and cooperative resolution. Also, some counties in Missouri allow pre-printed forms and settlements, both of which make for a faster and easier dissolution of marriage. See a local Missouri divorce attorney for more information.
If a Missouri court grants an annulment it is declaring the marriage no longer exists, because the marriage was not valid to begin with. Annulments are uncommon in Missouri, but there are specific instances when an annulment may be granted: bigamy; same sex marriage; incest; or, lack of capacity. Missouri annulments can be complicated; you should seek advice from a Missouri divorce attorney.
Property Division in a Missouri Divorce
Missouri follows the property distribution system of “equitable distribution.” Equitable distribution means the Missouri court will divide “marital property” how it deems fair. Fair does not necessarily mean an equal 50-50 split. Among other factors, in determining the distribution the court will consider the contributions of each spouse to the marital estate, the total value of the properties of the parties, the economic circumstances of each party, any misconduct that may have occurred, and the amount of spousal support awarded.
All property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage and prior to a decree of legal separation or dissolution of marriage is presumed to be “marital property” regardless of whether title is held individually or by the spouses in some form of co-ownership such as joint tenancy, tenancy in common, tenancy by the entirety, and community property. The presumption of marital property is overcome by a showing that the property was acquired by gift, bequest, devise, decent, or other method determined by the Missouri Revised Statutes. Property division may be a complicated matter and varies with each divorce; you should discuss you options with a Missouri divorce attorney.
Links to Divorce Statutes