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Missouri Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a dissolution of marriage in Missouri, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:
One party must be a resident of the state of Missouri, or is a member of the armed services who has been stationed in this state, for ninety days immediately preceding the commencement of the proceeding and thirty days must have elapsed since the filing of the petition before the dissolution of marriage will be granted.
An original proceeding shall be commenced in the county in which the petitioner resides or in the county in which the respondent resides. (Missouri Statutes - Title 30 - Chapter 452 - Sections: 300 and 305)
Grounds for Filing:The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must declare the appropriate Missouri grounds upon which the dissolution of marriage is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The dissolution of marriage grounds are as follows:
The marriage is irretrievably broken; and there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.
If both of the parties by petition or otherwise have stated under oath or affirmation that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or one of the parties has so stated and the other has not denied it, the court, after considering the aforesaid petition or statement, and after a hearing thereon shall make a finding whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken and shall enter an order of dissolution or dismissal accordingly. (Missouri Statutes - Title 30 - Chapter 452 - Sections: 300)
Filing Spouse Title:Petitioner. The Petitioner is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court. The filing spouse can also be titled the Co-Petitioner is filing jointly.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Respondent. The Respondent is the spouse who does not file the initial dissolution of marriage papers, but rather receives them by service. The non-filing spouse can also be titled the Co-Petitioner is filing jointly.
Court Name:In the Circuit Court of _______________ County, Missouri. This is the Missouri court where the dissolution of marriage will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a dissolution of marriage according to Missouri law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Marital Settlement Agreement, Income and Expense Statement, Affidavit Regarding the Children, and Answer and Waiver of Service.
Court Clerk's Title:Office of the Clerk of the County Circuit Court. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Since Missouri is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.
In a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage or legal separation, or in a proceeding for disposition of property following dissolution of the marriage the court shall divide the marital property and marital debts in such proportions as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors including: (1) The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse having custody of any children; (2) The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker; (3) The value of the nonmarital property set apart to each spouse; (4) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and (5) Custodial arrangements for minor children.
Marital Property can be defined as all property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage except: (1) Property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent; (2) Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent; (3) Property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation; (4) Property excluded by valid written agreement of the parties; and (5) The increase in value of property acquired prior to the marriage , unless marital assets including labor, have contributed to such increases and then only to the extent of such contributions. (Missouri Statutes - Title 30 - Chapter 452 - Sections: 330)
Restoration or Name Change:A spouse may make a petition to the court for a name change. A legal notice of this name change must be presenting and published in the local newspaper in the county is which the spouse resides. (Missouri Statutes - Chapter 527 - Sections: 270 and 290)
Spousal Support:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, and after considering all relevant factors including: (1) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian; (2) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment; (3) The comparative earning capacity of each spouse; (4) The standard of living established during the marriage; (5) The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to him and the separate property of each party; (6) The duration of the marriage; (7) The age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; (8) The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance; (9) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and (10) Any other relevant factors.
The maintenance order shall state if it is modifiable or nonmodifiable. The court may order maintenance which includes a termination date. Unless the maintenance order which includes a termination date is nonmodifiable, the court may order the maintenance decreased, increased, terminated, extended, or otherwise modified based upon a substantial and continuing change of circumstances which occurred prior to the termination date of the original order. (Missouri Statutes - Title 30 - Chapter 452 - Sections: 335 and 345)
Counseling or Mediation Requirements:If one of the parties has denied under oath or affirmation that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court shall consider continuing the matter for further hearing not less than thirty days or more than six months later, or as soon thereafter as the matter may be reached on the court's calendar, and may suggest to the parties that they seek counseling. No court shall require counseling as a condition precedent to a decree, nor shall any employee of any court, or of the state or any political subdivision of the state, be utilized as a marriage counselor. At the adjourned hearing, the court shall make a finding whether the marriage is irretrievably broken. (Missouri Statutes - Title 30 - Chapter 452 - Sections: 320)
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a dissolution of marriage, the Missouri courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
The court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors including: (1) The wishes of the child's parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties; (2) The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child; (3) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests; (4) Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent; (5) The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community; (6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved. If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm; (7) The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and (8) The wishes of a child as to the child's custodian.
A parent not granted custody of the child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would endanger the child's physical health or impair his or her emotional development. The court shall enter an order specifically detailing the visitation rights of the parent without physical custody rights to the child and any other children for whom such parent has custodial or visitation rights. In determining the granting of visitation rights, the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence. If the court finds that domestic violence has occurred, the court may find that granting visitation to the abusive party is in the best interests of the child. (Missouri Statutes - Title 30 - Chapter 452 - Sections: 375 and 400)
Child Support:Missouri child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent's income. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child. All income is typically verified by examining past W-2's and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.
In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or child support, the court may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child of the marriage to pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the support of the child, including an award retroactive to the date of filing the petition, without regard to marital misconduct, after considering all relevant factors including: (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 been dissolved; (4) The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child's educational needs; (5) The child's physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time the child spends with each parent and the reasonable expenses associated with the custody or visitation arrangements; and (6) The reasonable work-related child care expenses of each parent.
Unless the circumstances of the child manifestly dictate otherwise and the court specifically so provides, the obligation of a parent to make child support payments shall terminate when the child: (1) Dies; (2) Marries; (3) Enters active duty in the military; (4) Becomes self-supporting, provided that the custodial parent has relinquished the child from parental control by express or implied consent; (5) Reaches age eighteen, unless the child is mentally incapacitated; or (6) Reaches age twenty-two, unless the child is mentally incapacitated or attending a secondary school program of instruction. (Missouri Statutes - Title 30 - Chapter 452 - Sections: 340 and 345)
Copyright Notice: The above synopsis of Missouri divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
At least one spouse must be a resident of Missouri for 90 days before filing for a Missouri divorce. The responding spouse has 20 days to reply to the petition, and at least 30 days must pass between the filing of the petition and the judge's signing of the divorce decree granting the divorce. This 30-day waiting period makes sure couples have a chance to reconcile if possible.
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