Missouri Divorce Law and Resources
U.S. Divorce Laws are enacted by each state using their respective legislative process. Once legislation is enacted into law, the divorce courts in Missouri have the authority to manage the divorce proceedings, including, spousal and child support payments, custodial rights of parents and the division of community property.
Since state laws are repealed and amended frequently, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before making any important decisions about your marriage. You can also visit the GotTrouble Divorce Resource for a more in-depth understanding of related divorce and family law topics.
As of 2016, all states allow for “no fault” divorce. Yet many courts still factor in the respective parties past behavior when determining the division of community property, debts, custody, support and related issues.
SAME-SEX DIVORCE –UPDATE:
On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the US Constitution in all 50 states. It follows, therefore, that the rights and obligations between same-sex divorcing parties are subject to the same dissolution laws of that state. Reference: US Supreme Court Opinion: Obergefell v. Hodges. (For more information visit ProCon.org).
RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS AND WHERE TO FILE:
To file for a divorce in Missouri, either party must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days prior to filing. The petition, under the June 1, 2003 law shall be filed in the circuit court in the county where either party resides.
LEGAL GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE:
Dissolution of marriage may be granted on the grounds that there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and that therefore the marriage is irretrievably broken. If the defendant denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the plaintiff must prove one or more of the following:
- The respondent committed adultery and to continue the marriage would be intolerable;
- The respondent has behaved in such a way that continuing the marriage would be intolerable;
- The the respondent abandoned the petitioner for at least six months prior to the filing of the petition;
- That the parties have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for at least 12 months prior to filing;
- That the parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least 24 months prior to filing. [Based on
A legal separation may be granted on the same grounds as a dissolution of marriage. In a legal separation, the court may make provisions for the custody and the support of each child, the maintenance of either spouse and the disposition of property. The parties may also reach a mutual agreement on maintenance of either spouse, the division of any property owned by either of them, and the custody, support and visitation of their children. Custody, support, and visitation of the children is subject to modification.
MEDIATION OR COUNSELING REQUIREMENTS:
When children are involved, the court may order counseling for the children. The court may also order the parties to participate in an alternative dispute resolution program to resolve any issues in dispute, except in cases of uncontested custody cases or if there is a finding of domestic abuse.
PROPERTY SUBJECT TO DIVISION
Missouri is an equitable distribution state, meaning that if the parties can’t reach a mutual agreement concerning the division of the marital estate, the court will distribute the property and liabilities in an equitable, but not necessarily equal fashion.
The court will take the following factors into consideration when making it’s decision:
- The economic circumstances of each spouse, 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 (5) Custodial arrangements for minor children.
PROPERTY NOT SUBJECT TO DIVISION
Property not subject to division is considered separate property, and includes:
- 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 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 the marriage, unless marital assets including labor, have contributed to such increases and then only to the extent of such contributions.
Maintenance may be awarded to either spouse if the court finds that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property, to provide for his or her reasonable needs, and is unable to support himself herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home. When awarding the duration and amount of maintenance, the court shall consider all relevant factors including the financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including marital property awarded to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including any provisions for child support for that party as custodian.
The court shall consider the following factors in its determination of support:
- The comparative earning capability of each spouse;
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The obligations and assets 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 obligated spouse to meet his needs while meeting the needs of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and
- Any other factors that the court deems relevant .
NOTE: Remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony shall relieve the other spouse from the obligation to pay alimony.
SPOUSE’S LEGAL NAME:
Even though there is no specific statute that addresses changing a spouses name as part of a petition for dissolution of marriage, a person may petition the circuit court for a name change. The petition shall set forth the petitioner’s full name, the new name desired, and a concise statement of the reason for such desired change. The court will grant the name change if such judge is satisfied that the desired change would be proper and not detrimental to the interests of any other person.
CHILD CUSTODY – BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD
If the parents can’t reach a mutual agreement concerning custody of the children, the court shall determine custody based on the best interests of the child, considering all relevant factors including:
- The wishes of the parents concerning 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 involved in meeting the needs of the child;
- The relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
- The adjustment of the child to the child’s 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 child’s custodial parent.
NOTE; When determining custody, there shall be no preference given to either parent in the awarding of custody because of that parent’s age, sex, or financial status, nor because of the age or sex of the child.
CHILD SUPPORT IN MISSOURI:
The courts use the “Income Shares” model for child support, meaning that the level of support is based on the combined income of both parents. The Missouri child support guidelines contain specific, descriptive and numeric criteria which will result in a computation of the support obligation.
ENFORCING CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS – FEDERAL OPTION:
FIND LOCAL FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT AGENCY NEAR YOU