Divorce

Filing for Divorce in Missouri

If you’re considering filing for divorce in the state of Missouri or if you have been served with divorce papers, you need to seek legal advise as soon as possible to protect your interest and your children’s interest. In Missouri, a divorce will be granted if both you and your spouse agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken and should be dissolved. However, even if your spouse denies that the marriage is broken, you can still file and be granted a divorce.

Missouri operates as a “no-fault” state, which means fault or wrongdoing doesn’t need to be proven to obtain a divorce. However, someone’s conduct or misconduct can be relevant in the Court’s determination of various legal issues, including, but not limited to: an unequal distrubution of assest/debts (property division), maintenance (spousal support), child support or child custody determinations.

Some common examples of misconduct that could be relevant in a divorce case:

  • Adultery and other forms of infidelity
  • Intolerable behavior that leads to emotional damage
  • Physical harm or other forms of domestic violence
  • Inability to have intimacy
  • Abandonment for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce
  • You and your spouse have lived separately for at least the past year
  • Extensive prison confinement
  • Financial misconduct, such as extreme spending or gambling addiction
  • Engaging in criminal activity
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

 

DIVORCE LAW

FAQ

Divorce Process

1. Filing a Petition: One spouse (the Petitioner) files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Circuit Court in the county where either spouse resides. This document outlines the grounds for divorce, such as irreconcilable differences, and any requests for child custody, child support, property division, and spousal maintenance.

2. Service of Process: After filing, the Petitioner must ensure that the other spouse (the Respondent) receives a copy of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage by having them served with a summons, notifying them of the divorce proceedings. This must be done through personal service by the Sheriff’s Department (in the county your spouse resides) or by a Private Process Server.

3. Response: The Respondent has 30 days to file their responsive pleading (an answer to your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and their Cournter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage). In the their answer, they admit and deny the allegations in your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and in and their Cournter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage they make their own requests regarding custody, support, property division, and spousal maintenance. Failure to file an an answer to your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and their Cournter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage within 30 days puts your spouse in default. 

4. Discovery: Both spouses may engage in discovery (called “interrogatories” and “request for production of documents”), a process where they exchange information and documents relevant to the divorce, such as financial records, property valuations, and child custody evaluations and evidence.

5. Negotiation/Settlement: Many divorces are resolved through negotiation (through yourself indidually or through your attorneys), or mediation (where the spouses work together-often with their attorneys) to reach agreements on issues like child custody/support, property division, and spousal maintenance. If an agreement is reached, it can be submitted to the Court for approval and a trial would not be necessary.

6. Trial: If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement, the case may go to trial, wherein a judge will hear the evidence and make a decisions on all unresolved issues based on Missouri law.

7. Final Judgment: Once all issues are resolved (either through agreement or by trial), the court will issue a final judgment of dissolution of marriage, which legally terminates/dissolves the marriage. This judgment will address all aspects of the divorce, child custody, child support, property division, and spousal maintenance, and any other relevant issues.

It’s important to note that specific procedures and requirements may vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the practices of the local court. 

What should I consider before filing for divorce?

Before filing for divorce in Missouri, it’s essential to consider several factors that can impact the process and outcomes of your case. Here are some key considerations:

1. Reasons for Divorce: Missouri allows for both fault-based and no-fault divorces. Understanding the grounds for divorce and whether your situation meets the criteria for fault-based grounds (such as adultery, abandonment, or abuse) or no-fault grounds (such as irreconcilable differences) can influence how you approach the divorce process.

2. Residency Requirements: You must meet Missouri’s residency requirements before filing for divorce. Typically, you or your spouse must have been a resident of Missouri for at least 90 days before filing.

3. Children: If you have children, consider their well-being and how custody, visitation, and support arrangements will affect them. Developing a parenting plan that addresses the children’s needs and schedules can help minimize conflict and disruption.

4. Property Division: Missouri is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, between spouses. Understanding what constitutes marital property, as well as any separate property, and how assets and debts will be divided can be crucial.

5. Maintenance (Spousal Support):  Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, may be a factor in your divorce, particularly if there is a significant disparity in income between you and your spouse. Consider whether spousal support will be sought or contested and how it may impact your financial situation post-divorce.

6. Financial Considerations: Assess your financial situation, including income, assets, debts, and expenses. Determine how you will support yourself during and after the divorce process and consider whether you need to seek temporary financial support or access to marital funds.

7. Legal Representation: Decide whether you will hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce proceedings. An experienced family law attorney can provide valuable guidance, protect your rights, and advocate for your interests throughout the process.

8. Emotional Support: Divorce can be emotionally challenging. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist to help you cope with the stress and navigate the emotional aspects of the divorce process.

9. Alternative Dispute Resolution: Explore options for resolving issues outside of court, such as mediation or collaborative divorce, which can be less adversarial and costly than litigation.

10. Future Plans: Consider your goals and priorities for the future, both personally and financially. Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve through the divorce process can help you make informed decisions and work toward a favorable outcome.

Before filing for divorce, it’s crucial to consult with a qualified family law attorney who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances and help you understand your rights and options under Missouri law

What is the difference between a legal serpartion and a divorce?

In Missouri, there are significant differences between legal separation and divorce:

Legal Separation:

    • Legal separation is a court-approved arrangement in which a married couple lives separately and addresses issues such as child custody, child support, property division, and spousal maintenance through a legal agreement.
    • While legally separated, spouses remain married and cannot marry someone else. They also maintain certain rights and responsibilities toward each other, such as inheritance rights and the ability to file joint tax returns.
    • Legal separation can provide a period of time for spouses to work on their marriage or to address practical concerns without terminating the marital relationship.

Divorce:

    • Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the legal process of ending a marriage. Once a divorce is finalized, the marriage is legally dissolved, and both parties are free to remarry.
    • In a divorce, issues such as property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support must be resolved either through negotiation, mediation, or by a judge’s decision.
    • Unlike legal separation, divorce permanently terminates the marital relationship and all associated rights and responsibilities between the spouses.

In summary, legal separation allows couples to live separately and address certain marital issues while remaining legally married, whereas divorce ends the marital relationship entirely, allowing both parties to remarry if they choose. Each option has its own legal implications and may be chosen based on the unique circumstances of the couple.

What is high net worth divorce?

A high net worth divorce in Missouri, like in other jurisdictions, involves the dissolution of a marriage where one or both spouses have significant assets, property, investments, or income. These divorces often present complex financial issues that require specialized knowledge and expertise to resolve. Some characteristics of high net worth divorces in Missouri may include:

  1. Substantial Assets: High net worth divorces typically involve significant assets such as real estate, businesses, investment portfolios, retirement accounts, valuable collections, and high-value personal property.
  2. Complex Property Division: Dividing assets in a high net worth divorce can be intricate and may require thorough valuation of assets, including businesses, intellectual property, and other investments. Missouri is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, between the spouses. Determining what constitutes marital property and how it should be divided can be more complex in high net worth divorces.
  3. Maintenance (Spousal Support): Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, may be a significant issue in high net worth divorces, especially if one spouse has been financially dependent on the other during the marriage. The court may consider factors such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s financial needs and resources, and the standard of living established during the marriage when determining spousal support awards.
  4. Business Interests: If one or both spouses own businesses or professional practices, the valuation and division of these assets can add complexity to the divorce process. Business valuations may require the expertise of financial professionals such as forensic accountants or business valuation experts.
  5. Tax Implications: High net worth divorces often involve tax considerations that can impact property division, support payments, and other financial aspects of the divorce. It’s important for both spouses to understand the tax consequences of various settlement options.
  6. Privacy Concerns: High-profile individuals or those with substantial wealth may have concerns about maintaining privacy during divorce proceedings. Strategies such as mediation or private settlement negotiations may be utilized to minimize public scrutiny.

Given the complexity of high net worth divorces, it’s essential for individuals involved to seek guidance from experienced family law attorneys who have expertise in handling these types of cases. We can help navigate the legal process, protect their clients’ interests, and work toward a fair resolution of all relevant issues.

Can I ask for my spouse to pay my attorney fees?

Yes, in Missouri, it is possible to request that your spouse pay your attorney fees in a divorce or other family law proceeding. This request is typically made through a motion filed with the court, and it is up to the judge to decide whether to grant the request based on the circumstances of the case. However, in Missouri, we operate under what is typically called the “American Rule”, which states that both parties are presumed to pay their own attorney fees.

Nonetheless, the court may order one spouse to pay the reasonable attorney fees of the other spouse if the court finds that:

  1. The spouse requesting attorney fees lacks sufficient means to pay for their own legal representation;
  2. The other spouse has the ability to pay for both their own attorney fees and those of the requesting spouse;
  3. That one party engaged in litigation misconduct.

The decision to award attorney fees is discretionary and will depend on factors such as the financial resources of each spouse, the complexity of the case, whether one spouse has acted in bad faith or unreasonably prolonged the litigation, and any other relevant considerations.

It’s important to note that the court will consider the reasonableness of the attorney fees requested, so it’s essential to provide documentation and evidence of the fees incurred and their necessity for the case. If you believe that you are entitled to have your spouse pay your attorney fees, you should discuss this with the attorney, who can advise you on the best course of action and help you prepare and present your request to the court.

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