Guide to the Divorce Process in Missouri
Divorce is never easy, but it doesn't have to be expensive or confusing. The divorce process in Missouri has several options for divorcing couples who can work out an agreement and avoid a lengthy trial process. This guide will help you understand your divorce options in Missouri so that you can make informed decisions about your legal problems and seek more specific guidance.
Petition and Response
The legal divorce process in Missouri begins either when one spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage, or when both spouses file a joint petition for dissolution of marriage. If only one spouse files a petition, the other spouse will be served with a copy of the petition and be allowed time to file a response.
Both the petition and response will contain similar information. Both must include the grounds for the divorce (which, in Missouri, is always the same: “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”), and must also include a request for relief. Relief, or the terms of the divorce, can take many forms. One spouse may wish to inhabit the marital house, get custody of children, divide assets in a particular way, or seek alimony.
The differences between the relief requested in the petition and response will be the contested issues at trial. Most of the time, these differences are resolved by settlement, rather than trial.
If both spouses can agree to the division of property and parental responsibilities, an uncontested dissolution shortcuts the divorce process in Missouri so that both spouses save money and time. Your county may even have special legal forms that allow you to file for an uncontested divorce without the assistance of a lawyer.
Sometimes, one spouse refuses to become involved in the divorce process in Missouri or cannot be located after a reasonable search. If you suspect this may be the case in your divorce, you may wish to find a divorce lawyer to help explain the process of divorce by default.
The divorce process in Missouri generally grants the plaintiff spouse (the one filing the petition) their requests in the divorce if the defendant spouse cannot be located or will not respond to the petition. You may have to publish the notice of the divorce in a newspaper if you cannot find your spouse after a reasonable search.
Discovery and Trial
Spouses who cannot agree upon issues in their divorce will have to go through the process of a civil trial. This is the most expensive and difficult divorce process in Missouri, and will generally take months longer than the more simple, uncontested dissolution.
If no settlement agreement can be reached, both spouses will begin a process of investigating each other's financial assets. This process, called “discovery,” can be the longest part of the divorce process in Missouri for couples with particularly complicated finances.
After discovery comes the trial. When arguments have concluded in the trial, the judge will come back with a judgment that decides all contested issues in your divorce. Appeals of divorce court decisions are relatively rare. If your case goes to trial, your divorce will not be granted until the trial has concluded and the judge has entered a divorce order signed by both attorneys.