Divorce – State FAQ – Missouri
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Missouri prior to filing for divorce in an Missouri court?
A: At least one of the parties to the dissolution action must have resided in the State of Missouri for at least ninety days immediately prior to the filing of the Petition. The action should be filed in the county where the petitioner resides
Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party filing the action is called the Petitioner, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Respondent. If the action for dissolution is filed jointly, both parties are referred to as Co-Petitioners.
Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: “Venue” refers to which type of court the case is filed. In Missouri, proper venue for the divorce action is the Circuit Court.
Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The order granting the divorce?
A: The title of the document initiating the divorce proceeding is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Q: Are there any waiting periods associated with a divorce action?
A: No divorce shall be granted until after the parties have been separated for a period of six months.
Grounds for Divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Missouri. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Missouri?
A: Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage with no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved is the only grounds for divorce in the State of Missouri.
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
A: Alimony may be granted to either spouse upon a finding that the spouse seeking alimony is unable to support himself and lacks sufficient property to provide for his own needs; or that the spouse seeking alimony is the custodian of a child whose condition is such that it would be inappropriate for that spouse to seek outside employment. Factors the court will consider in awarding alimony include those listed on the Michigan Divorce Main Page in the Information section.
Q: For how long must alimony be paid?
A: Alimony may be awarded in a gross sum to be paid to the recipient, or may be awarded on a year-to-year basis. The award of alimony terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse or that spouse’s death.
Q: May an award of alimony ever be modified?
A: The order establishing alimony must also state whether the award is modifiable or non modifiable. If the award is modifiable, the court may modify the award only upon a showing that the circumstances have changed so substantially as to make the terms unreasonable.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Missouri is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. The court will consider the following factors when dividing property:
1. The economic circumstances of the parties at the time of the division of property;
2. The contribution of each spouse to the marital estate;
3. The value of the non marital property set apart to each spouse;
4. The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and,
5. Custodial arrangements for minor children.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: The court may award custody to either parent, regardless of sex, subject to the best interests of the child. Missouri courts will decide the issue of custody based upon the best interests of the child. A partial list of factors the court will consider in determining the best interests of the child include:
1. The wishes of the parents, the need of the child for a frequent and meaningful relationship with both parents;
2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with both the parents and any siblings; and,
3. The wishes of the child.
Q: What additional steps are required by divorcing parents?
A: Each parent is required to submit to the court a proposed parenting plan within thirty (30) days after service of process or filing of the entry of appearance, setting forth arrangements regarding such issues as custody, visitation and residential time for each child that the party believes to be in the best interests of the child.
Q: Can grandparents be granted visitation rights?
A: Yes. Grandparents can be awarded visitation rights. If rights are denied, a grandparent can petition the court who will send the case to mediation.
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: The Missouri legislature has established child support guidelines which establish the presumptive correct amount of child support. Deviation from the guidelines require a specific finding by the court that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate and such findings must be included in the judgment. Some of the factors the court will consider in determining the amount of child support include:
1. The financial needs and resources of the child;
2. The financial resources and needs of the parents;
3. The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not terminated; and,
4. The child’s physical and legal custody arrangements.
Q: When does the obligation to pay child support end?
A: The obligation to pay child support terminates upon the death of the child, the marriage of the child, the child entering active duty in the military, the child becoming self-sufficient, the child reaching eighteen (18) years of age, or, if the child is enrolled in a secondary school program of education, when the child reaches the age of twenty-two (22) years of age.