Divorce, or the dissolution of marriage as it's legally referred to in Missouri, can be a complex and emotionally charged process. As a Missouri-based family law attorney, it's my duty to guide you through this legal journey, starting with understanding how divorce law works in our state.
Filing for Divorce
The first step in the divorce process is filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In Missouri, either spouse can file for divorce without having to prove fault. The spouse who files the petition is referred to as the "Petitioner," while the other spouse is the "Respondent." To file for divorce in Missouri, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of 90 days.
Serving Divorce Papers
Once the petition is filed, the Respondent must be "served," or given a copy of the divorce papers. If the Respondent agrees, they can sign an "Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service," which is then filed with the court. If they do not agree, the papers must be formally served, typically by a sheriff or a private process server.
After being served, the Respondent has 30 days to respond. If they do not respond, the court may grant a default judgment in favor of the Petitioner. If the Respondent contests the divorce or the terms outlined in the Petition, the process can become more complex, and the parties may proceed to court.
Division of Property
Missouri is an "equitable distribution" state, meaning the court will divide marital property in a way that is considered fair, but not necessarily equal. Factors the court considers include each spouse's economic circumstances, the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, and the value of each spouse's separate property.
Spousal Support and Child Custody
Spousal support, also known as maintenance or alimony, may be awarded based on a spouse's financial need and the other spouse's ability to pay. Child custody and support are determined based on the best interests of the child, considering factors like the parents' wishes, the child's needs, and the parents' ability to provide a stable environment.
Divorce law in Missouri is complex, and the process can be daunting. However, understanding the legalities can provide a roadmap for navigating these challenging circumstances. As a Missouri-based family law attorney, I am committed to guiding you through the process and advocating for your best interests at every turn.