Missouri No-Fault Divorce Laws: Simplifying the Process

Shot of a mature woman looking upset with her husband in the background visual concept for blog entitled Missouri No-Fault Divorce Laws.

Divorce can be one of the most emotionally challenging situations you ever face. It can also be legally complex, depending upon the issues that must be resolved. However, it’s important to understand that parting ways with your spouse doesn’t need to involve lengthy and costly battles in the courtroom. Missouri law allows for no-fault divorce — this means you do not have to place blame or prove any spousal misconduct to end your marriage.

What is a Dissolution of Marriage?

Dissolution of marriage is another term for divorce in Missouri. It is the legal process that ends a marriage and terminates the rights and responsibilities that come with it. It is not necessary to establish that either spouse is to blame for the marriage falling apart to obtain a divorce. Rather, only one spouse must allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken and “there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”

In Missouri, no-fault divorce is the only option. However, this does not mean evidence of a spouse’s wrongdoing cannot be raised — there may be certain situations in which establishing fault can result in a better outcome when it comes to property distribution, alimony, or child custody.

What is the Process for No-Fault Divorce in Missouri?

The no fault divorce process begins with filing a petition and paying a filing fee in the county in which the petitioner or respondent resides. In order to commence a divorce, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of Missouri for at least 90 days. Although Missouri doesn’t require an official separation period for spouses, the law requires a waiting period of at least 30 days after filing for divorce before the case can be finalized.

Since Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, the petition does not need to raise any fault grounds for divorce. As long as one spouse states that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no reasonable likelihood that it can be preserved, a judge can order a divorce. But if the respondent spouse does not agree to end the marriage, the case can become more complex. In these situations, a court would look to see whether one of the following factors set forth in Missouri Revised Statute § 452.320.2 exists in order to determine that the marriage is irretrievably broken:

  • The respondent spouse committed adultery and the petitioner spouse finds it intolerable to live with them
  • The respondent behaved in such a manner that the petitioner spouse cannot reasonably be expected to live with them
  • The respondent spouse abandoned the petitioner spouse for a period of at least six months prior to filing the divorce petition
  • The spouses have lived separately and apart by mutual consent for a continuous period of 12 months immediately before filing the petition
  • The spouses have lived separately and apart for a continuous period of 24 months before filing the petition

In addition to satisfying the statutory requirements for a dissolution of marriage, spouses must reach a settlement on the issues that need to be determined to divorce. If the couple agrees on all issues pertaining to property division, child support, child custody, alimony, and debt allocation, the divorce is considered “uncontested.” The spouses can then file the settlement agreement they reached with the court for a judge to review. If the court determines that the agreement reached is fair, they will turn it into a binding order.

Using Mediation to Simplify the No-Fault Divorce Process in Missouri

Just because a divorce is no-fault doesn’t mean spouses will agree on every issue that must be decided in order to divorce. If spouses cannot reach an agreement regarding one issue or more, mediation can help to facilitate communication. Mediation takes place in a confidential, neutral setting and allows spouses to go through the divorce process at their own pace. The parties have the opportunity to express their concerns and work through any disputes in a healthy manner.

Rather than allow a judge to determine the results of the divorce, mediation provides spouses with the communication tools necessary to decide the outcome. Spouses can begin mediation at any time during the divorce process — including before the divorce has been commenced or after the petition has been filed.

Contact a Missouri Divorce Attorney With Decades of Experience

Regardless of whether you’re filing a no-fault divorce, it’s essential to have a skillful attorney by your side who can help ensure your rights are protected. Divorce and family law attorney Mark A. Wortman provides legal representation to clients in the greater Kansas City, Missouri area who are considering divorce and strives to ensure positive results in every case. To schedule a confidential consultation to learn how Mark can assist you, please contact him today online or by calling (816) 523-6100.

Categories: Divorce