Missouri Divorce Basics

This article outlines the rules and procedures for getting a divorce in Missouri.

Grounds for Divorce

To get a divorce in Missouri, the person filing for divorce must cite that there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage of the parties can be preserved and, therefore, the marriage is irretrievably broken. Missouri is a no-fault state, and a marriage which is irretrievably broken is the no-fault solution that allows for couples to file for divorce without placing any blame.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

A person can file for divorce in Missouri if either spouse has been a resident of the state for at least 90 days prior to the filing, and may file in the county in which either spouse lives. The court won’t hold a hearing on a divorce case until at least 30 days after the initial petition is filed. Some counties in Missouri allow a divorce by affidavit with no court hearing unless children are involved or there appears to be an irregularity the court wants to address at a hearing.

Property Division in Missouri

Missouri courts will distribute marital property based on the principle of a fair and equitable distribution—the court divides the property fairly, but doesn’t have to divide it equally. The court would examine the source of the property, the financial condition and earning ability of both parties, and any agreements that the parties might have had. Then, the court distributes the property based on what it would consider fair and equitable.

Alimony

The court may order one spouse to pay alimony, otherwise known as maintenance or spousal support, to the other. This can be in a lump sum, a periodic payment, or even a percentage of the paying spouse’s earnings.

Child Support

The court can order payments by one or both parents for the care and maintenance of the child or children. Missouri has guidelines for calculating child support. If a parent wants to change an order that was made within the preceding three years, the court requires a showing of a material change in circumstances (this could be a change in income for either parent, loss of a job, or anything else that changes the financial picture).

Child Custody

Before the court can make a decision about child custody, it will examine many elements: the wishes of both the parents and the child, the adjustment of the child to the child’s current home, school, and community, any evidence of spousal or child abuse by a parent or someone the parent lives with, and whether the parent or someone the parent lives with is subject to sex offender registration.

By law, a parent is entitled to reasonable parenting time unless there is evidence that spending time with the parent would physically, emotionally, or mentally harm the child. If the court finds a need, it may order that the child exchange or visitation occur at a particular location.

A parent who has legal custody, resides with the child, or has parenting time with the child, must give the other parent written notice at least 60 days prior to changing residences with the child or removing the child from the state for more than 90 days. When considering a case in which the custodial parent wants to move away with the child, the court will consider whether the move is in the best interest of the child, how the move will affect all of the parties involved, and whether the move will impose any increased costs on the parties. Missouri courts have ruled that there are no presumptions in favor of or against relocation; the court would have to consider what the best thing for the child would be.