Missouri no fault divorce - what it does and does not mean

Similar to other states, Missouri is a modified no-fault divorce state. However, there is some misconception out there about what this actually means for divorcing parties in Missouri. Modified no-fault divorce means that a party does not have to prove that their spouse committed some kind of misconduct, such as adultery, abandonment, financial, etc., in order for the court to grant the divorce. All that has to be proven, with regards to grounds, is that there is “no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved, and that the marriage is irretrievably broken”, which is basically the familiar “irreconcilable differences”. If that is proven, or as is often the case, agreed to in the filings, the court will grant the divorce (assuming jurisdictional and procedural requirements are also met).

However, no fault does not mean that conduct is not relevant. Although conduct does not need to be proven to actually get the divorce, conduct, or misconduct, can have a bearing on all aspects of the case. Conduct can affect how the court divides the property, awards spousal maintenance, awards attorney’s fees, awards custody, parenting time, and to some extent child support. Although there is usually a preference for joint custody and equal property division, “no fault” does not mean that that will be the case, and “no-fault” does not mean that everything will end up equal. The court has to look at other standards for each particular issue in the case, and will make orders accordingly as to those issues.

It is also not required that a spouse “grant” the other spouse the divorce, however it is possible that a party could try to prove that the marriage was not actually broken and could be preserved. My thought is that if spouses are actually to the point of litigating in court, the court is probably going to find that the marriage is broken. So, modified no fault may in reality mean actual no fault, but there is still that standard of proof in all cases.