How long does it take to get a divorce in Missouri? This is a question that family lawyers hear often. Divorce is a difficult, often painful process, but it does not always have to be a lengthy one. The amount of time it takes to finalize a divorce depends on many factors, such as how much the parties are contesting the issues, how much they are willing to cooperate, whether expert witnesses need to get involved, and whether the case goes to trial or ends in a settlement. At a minimum for the most uncontested of cases, you should expect a divorce to take around ninety days from the date a divorce petition is filed. Depending on the county, fully contested matters can take 6 to 12 months, or in some cases even longer.
Filing for divorce in Missouri requires a petition that identifies the spouses and their minor children, if any, and provides information about the marriage and separation. Missouri divorce laws allow anyone who has been a resident of this state for at least ninety days to file a divorce petition, although if child custody is at issue, the jurisdiction requirement is typically 6 months. Military service members who have been stationed here for ninety days or longer may also file for divorce.
Missouri law states that a court cannot grant a divorce until thirty days after the date the petition was filed. It is possible for someone to have a settlement agreement signed and ready to present to the judge on the thirty-first day. This is rare, though, due to most court’s docketing, which is why we cite ninety days as the minimum that you should expect.
While every divorce is unique, one of the biggest factors that may determine how long it will take is the extent to which it is contested or uncontested:
As mentioned above, an uncontested divorce takes a statutory minimum of thirty days, although ninety days is a more likely minimum. In order to settle an uncontested divorce, the parties must reach an agreement on several issues:
Resolving these issues could be relatively simple, depending on the parties’ circumstances. The more assets they own, the longer it might take to negotiate a division. If they have children, they will have to work out many details in advance. The parenting plan must include:
The court will want to see that the parents have a plan for resolving disputes affecting the children, at least in part to minimize the likelihood that they will need to return to court to modify or enforce any part of their agreement.
While cases have an absolute minimum length of thirty days, there is no specific maximum length of time. This does not necessarily mean that a court will simply allow a divorce case to drag on for years. Courts can dismiss a case for “failure to prosecute” if it has been inactive for too long. If the parties are actively litigating, though, a divorce case can go on for quite some time.
Reasons that a contested divorce might take a long time include:
If negotiation, mediation, or other efforts at dispute resolution do not produce a settlement agreement, the case will have to go to trial. This means finding time on the court’s docket. Depending on the county or the court, this will likely be months later.
Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that you can obtain a divorce without proving that your spouse was at fault for the breakup of the marriage. A court must find that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” and that there is “no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”
If your spouse denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the Court agrees, it is possible that a judge will grant a legal separation instead of a divorce. After ninety days, you can ask the court to convert a legal separation to a divorce.
Kansas City family attorney Mark A. Wortman has dedicated his practice to divorce and related family law issues. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online or at (816) 523-6100.