Basics of Divorce in Missouri
Missouri is a no-fault divorce state. If one party testifies that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and there is no likelihood the relationship can be repaired, the dissolution will likely be granted and the marriage will be legally over.
Grounds for Divorce
Missouri courts will grant a divorce if you and your spouse agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no likelihood that the marriage can be saved. This is considered a no-fault divorce. If one spouse does not agree that the marriage is broken, the petitioning spouse must prove one of the following grounds: adultery, intolerable cruelty, abandonment, or that the parties have lived separate and apart for at least one year by mutual consent or two years without mutual consent.
Residency Requirement and Waiting Period
You must live in Missouri for at least 90 days before you may file for divorce, and you can file your divorce petition in the county where either spouse lives. You must then wait at least 30 days after filing the petition before the court will grant a decree or judgment of divorce.
Missouri uses an equitable distribution system for dividing property, meaning a judge will divide property and debt acquired during the marriage in a way that is fair and equitable, but not necessarily exactly equal. Of course, if you and your spouse agree on how to divide your property you may not need the court's assistance. The court will consider several factors when distributing property such as each spouse's economic circumstances and contributions to the home, the value of each spouse's non-marital property, and both spouses' conduct during the marriage. The court may also consider whether to award the family home to the parent who has primary custody of any minor children. Property that was acquired before the marriage, or during the marriage by gift or inheritance, will be the separate property of the spouse who acquired it.
Missouri courts may order one spouse to pay alimony or maintenance to the other spouse if that spouse is unable to be self-supporting. Before making a maintenance order, the judge will look at each spouse's financial resources, earning capacity, assets, and debts, as well as the duration of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, and the conduct of the spouses during their marriage. The alimony amount may be modified later if either spouse has a significant change in circumstances. A maintenance award automatically terminates if the spouse receiving alimony remarries.
Missouri uses state guidelines based on the combined income of both parents to determine the amount of child support. The court also considers the parents' and child's financial resources and needs, the standard of living in which the child was raised, and the child's physical, emotional, and educational needs. You can estimate your child support obligation here. Child support continues until the child reaches 18 unless an exception applies such as the child is disabled or the child attends college or graduate school. The Department of Social Services enforces child support obligations in Missouri.
When making a child custody order, Missouri courts are guided by what is in the best interests of the child. The parents may submit an agreed upon custody to the court, and it will likely be adopted if it is in the child's best interests. If the parents cannot agree, the court will look at several factors such as the wishes of the parents, the child's relationship with parents, siblings, and other significant friends or family members, which parent will encourage the child's relationship with the other parent, and how the child is adjusting to home, school, and community. The judge's goal is to provide the child with active involvement by both parents, so the parents' age, sex, or financial status are not relevant factors. To change a custody order, either parent must show a significant change in circumstances.