Missouri Divorce Law
Divorce and Legal Separation in Missouri
Divorce and Legal Separation in Missouri
Missouri Divorce Basics
To file for divorce or legal separation in Missouri, either party must have been a resident of the state, or is a member of the armed services who has been stationed in the state, for 90 days immediately preceding the commencement of the proceeding.
A Petition may be filed in circuit court in the county in which either party resides. If an original proceeding is commenced in the county in which the Petitioner (filing spouse) resides, upon motion by the Respondent (non-filing party) filed prior to the filing of a responsive pleading, the court in which the proceeding is commenced may transfer the proceeding to the county in which the Respondent resides if the following is true:
- The county in which the Respondent resides had been the county in which the children resided during the 90 days immediately preceding the commencement of the proceeding; or
- The best interest of the children will be served if the proceeding is transferred to the county in which the Respondent resides because the children and at least one parent have significant connection with the county and there is substantial evidence concerning the present or future care, protection and personal relationships of the children in the county.
The rules of the Supreme Court and other applicable court rules shall govern all proceedings for dissolution, legal separation, child support, child custody, division of property and maintenance.
There is no statute specifically addressing a spouse reverting to his/her former name after divorce. However, statute does allow for name change in general. Therefore, if a spouse wants to change his/her name, a Petition to that effect must be presented to the circuit court of the county of the Petitionerís residence, verified by affidavit.
The Petition must state the Petitionerís full name, the new name desired, and a concise statement of the reason for such desired change. If the judge is satisfied that the desired change would be proper and not detrimental to the interests of any other person, the Petition may be granted.
Public notice of the name change must be published at least three times in the county where the Petitioner resides, within 20 days after the court order is made, unless the following is true:
- The Petitioner is the victim of a domestic violence crime;
- The Petitioner is the victim of child abuse; or
- The Petitioner is the victim of abuse by a family or household member.
Legal Grounds for Divorce
- There remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and that therefore the marriage is irretrievably broken.
If one of the parties has denied under oath or affirmation that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including the circumstances that gave rise to the filing of the petition and the prospect of reconciliation, and after hearing the evidence shall make a finding whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken.
In order to make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the Petitioner must satisfy the court on one or more of the following facts:
- That the Respondent has committed adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent;
- That the Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent;
- That the Respondent has abandoned the Petitioner for a continuous period of at least six months before filing the Petition;
- That both parties have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for a continuous period of 12 months immediately preceding the filing of the Petition; or
- That both parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least 24 months preceding the filing of the Petition.
The court may also continue the matter for further hearing not less than 30 days or more than six months later, or as soon thereafter as the hearing may be scheduled, and may suggest to the parties that they seek counseling. No court shall require counseling as a condition to receiving a decree.
- Marriages between parents and children, including grandparents and grandchildren of every degree, between brothers and sisters (half or whole), between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, and first cousins;
- Marriage between persons who lack the capacity to enter into a marriage contract;
- All marriages where either of the parties has a former spouse still living, shall be void, unless the former marriage has been dissolved;
- Either party to the marriage is under 15 years of age;
- Either party to the marriage is at least 15 years of age but under 18 years of age, and did not obtain the consent of his/her custodial parent or guardian;
Common-law marriages contracted in Missouri are null and void.
Missouri case law shows that the state also permits annulment for other grounds, such as duress; mental illness, insanity, and retardation; lack of physical assent to the marriage; impotency; and entering into marriage due to fraud.
∑ 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;
- The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
- The value of the non-marital property set apart to each spouse;
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and
- Custodial arrangements for minor children.
- Property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
- Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
- Property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation;
- Property excluded by valid written agreement of the parties; and
- The increase in value of property acquired prior to a decree of legal separation or dissolution of marriage is presumed to be marital property regardless of whether title is held individually or by the spouses in some form of co-ownership such as jont tenancy, tenancy in common, tenancy by the entirety, and community property.
Alimony and Maintenance
The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just. It may order that alimony be paid in gross or from year to year. The court will consider all relevant factors including the following:
- 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;
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;
- The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to him and the separate property of each party;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and
- Any other relevant factors.
When a divorce has been granted, and the court has made an order or decree providing for the payment of alimony and maintenance, the remarriage of the former spouse shall relieve the paying spouse from further payment of alimony to the former spouse from the date of the remarriage, without the necessity of further court action.
Child Custody and Support
It is public policy in Missouri that frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage is in the best interest of the child, except where proven differently. It is also public policy to encourage parents to participate in decisions affecting the health, education and welfare of their children, and to resolve disputes involving their children amicably through alternative dispute resolution.
Courts with jurisdiction, therefore, shall determine the custody arrangement which will best assure both parents participate in decision making and have frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with their children; and shall enforce visitation, custody and child support orders in the same manner.
The Petitioner and Respondent shall submit a proposed parenting plan, either individually or jointly, within 30 days after service of process or the filing of the entry of appearance, whichever occurs first, of a Petition involving custody or visitation issues. The proposed parenting plan shall set forth the arrangements that the party believes to be in the best interest of the minor children and shall include the following:
- A specific written schedule detailing the custody, visitation and residential time for each child with each party including major holidays, school holidays, childís birthday, Motherís Day, Fatherís Day, weekday and weekend schedules, times and places for transfer of the children, etc.;
- A specific written plan regarding legal custody which details how the decision-making rights and responsibilities will be shared between the parties including educational decisions, medical, dental and health care decisions, extracurricular activities; child care providers; dispute resolution procedures, etc; and
- How the expenses of the child, including child care, educational and extraordinary expenses as defined in the child support guidelines will be paid, including the suggested amount of child support to paid by each party, the party who will maintain or provide health insurance for the child, how the medical, dental, vision, psychological and other health care expenses of the child not paid by insurance will be paid by the parties, child care expenses, etc.
- The wishes of the childís parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
- 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;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the childís best interests;
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
- The childís adjustment to the childís home, school and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;
- The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
- The wishes of a child as to the childís custodian.
- Joint physical and joint legal custody to both parents, which shall not be denied solely because one parent opposes this arrangement, and the residence of one of the parents shall be designated as the address of the child for mailing and educational purposes;
- Joint physical custody with one party granted sole legal custody, and the residence of one of the parents shall be designated as the address of the child for mailing and educational purposes;
- Joint legal custody with one party granted sole physical custody;
- Sole custody to either parent; or
- Third-party custody or visitation.
The Missouri Supreme Court has a rule establishing guidelines by which any award of child support shall be made in any judicial or administrative proceeding. The guidelines shall address how the amount of child support shall be calculated when an award of joint physical custody results in the child(ren) spending substantially equal time with both parents.
Missouri bases their formula for determining child support on the Income Shares Model. The formula uses a table based on the parentsí combined adjusted gross income and the number of children to be supported, with adjustments for other child support being paid under court or administrative order and monthly court-ordered maintenance being paid.
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 the following:
- The financial needs and resources of the child;
- The financial resources and needs of the parents;
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
- The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the childís educational needs;
- The childís 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
- The reasonable work-related child care expenses of each parent.
The obligation of a parent to make child support payments shall terminate when the child dies; marries; enters active duty in the military; becomes self-supporting and the custodial parent has relinquished the parent from parental control; reaches the age of 18; or reaches the age of 21, unless the provisions of the child support order specifically extend the parental support order past the childís 21st birthday.
If the child is physically or mentally incapacitated from supporting him/herself and insolvent and unmarried, the court may extend the parental support obligation past the childís 18th birthday.
When the child reaches the age of 18 and is enrolled in and attending a secondary school program of instruction, child support shall continue until the child completes the program or reaches age 21, whichever occurs first.
Thirty days must have elapsed since the filing of the Petition and the granting of the legal separation.
Links to State Resources
- Child Support Forms
Forms for child support legal actions, includes Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet and Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations.
- County Courts
Links to Local County Resources and Services.
- Divorce Forms
Petitionerís Forms Package for Dissolution of Marriage.
- Missouri Revised Statutes, Title XXX, Chapter 451 Ė Marriage
Links to text of Missouri Statutes regarding Marriage, Marriage Contracts and Rights of Married Woman.
- Missouri Revised Statutes, Title XXX, Chapter 452 - Dissolution of Marriage
Links to text of Missouri Statutes regarding Divorce, Alimony and Separate Maintenance, Child Custody and Support, and Property Division.