Going through a divorce can be challenging, both emotionally and legally. One of the first steps toward navigating this process in Missouri is understanding how to file for divorce. As a dedicated Missouri family law attorney, my goal is to guide you through this procedure.
Before filing for divorce in Missouri, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of 90 days.
Prepare and File the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The first formal step in the divorce process is preparing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This document outlines the grounds for divorce, which in Missouri can be "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage if there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. The Petition also contains relevant information about the marriage, children, property, and the relief sought.
Submit the Completed Forms to the Court
After preparing the Petition, you will need to file it with the appropriate Circuit Court in Missouri. There is a filing fee that must be paid at this time. If you cannot afford the fee, you may request a fee waiver.
Serving Your Spouse
After the Petition is filed, your spouse must be formally notified of the divorce action. This process is known as service of process and is usually accomplished by a sheriff or a private process server. If your spouse agrees, they can sign an "Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service" form.
Response by the Respondent
Once your spouse is served, they have 30 days to file a Response. If your spouse fails to respond, you may request a default judgment.
Negotiation, Mediation, and Trial
If there are disputes over matters such as property division, child custody, or spousal support, these issues will need to be resolved. This can be done through negotiation, mediation, or, if necessary, a trial.
Once all issues have been resolved and the court is satisfied that all legal requirements have been met, the judge will issue a final decree of dissolution of marriage, formally ending the marriage.
Filing for divorce in Missouri involves multiple steps and careful consideration. Having an experienced Missouri family law attorney can make this complex process more manageable and help protect your rights and interests.