Kansas City Divorce Lawyer
Our law firm offers effective representation to divorcing spouses in the Kansas City Missouri area. Divorce cases can range from an uncontested matter where the parties agree on a settlement of the issues, to fully contested divorce litigation, including disputes regarding parenting time with children (custody and visitation), child support, spousal maintenance, spousal misconduct, temporary and pendent elite orders, attorney fees, and character and division of property — including real property, business interests, retirement plans, military pensions and benefits, personal property.
The selection of a divorce lawyer is a critical one, as the attorney representing the spouse can either make or break the case. Kansas City divorce attorney Mark A. Wortman is not only thoroughly knowledgeable in Missouri divorce law, but he is compassionate in his representation and experienced in dealing with the needs of his clients. At the law office of Mark A. Wortman, we care about our clients and truly desire to bring a successful result in every case we handle.
Below we have provided some general information on Missouri divorce law. Please feel free to research our website and visit our Kansas City Missouri divorce blog. Please note however that this information is for your general information only, and is no substitute for the expertise of an experienced Missouri divorce attorney.
If you have questions, we encourage you to contact us about how we can make the difference in your case.
Missouri Divorce Process
Grounds for Divorce in Missouri
In Missouri, it is not necessary to show that one of the parties is at fault in the decline of the marriage. The court must only find that there is a breakdown in the essential objects and goals of the marriage, and that there is no likelihood of saving the marriage. If the parties agree to the breakdown of the marriage, further evidence is not generally required. However, if one of the parties to the divorce alleges that there is no irretrievable breakdown, the court may consider all relevant factors, including the circumstances that gave rise to the filing of the petition and the prospect of reconciliation. For more information see RSMo section 452.320.2(1).
Although it is not necessary to show fault of one of the parties, the court still may consider such evidence in the property division.
Jurisdiction and Venue: Who Can File for Divorce? Where Should They File?
In order to file for divorce in Missouri, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of the state for at least 90 days. The divorce petition is filed in the Circuit Court in the county in which the person filing, the Petitioner, resides.
However, if you have children, the Missouri Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act may come into play affecting whether or not the court will be able to assume jurisdiction over the children. Generally,
- the children must have resided in Missouri for 6 months,
- the child and at least one of the litigants must have significant connections and substantial evidence concerning the child’s present or future care,
- the child must be physically present and requires emergency protection, OR
- it is in the best interest of the child to assume jurisdiction because no other state could or would under any other grounds.
Waiting Period for Divorce in Missouri
The petition for divorce (dissolution) must be on file for at least 30 days before the court can dissolve the marriage.
Service of Process
In order for the non-filing party, called the Respondent, to be brought into the jurisdiction of the court, copies of the Petition and a summons must be delivered to them properly. This usually means a Missouri county sheriff or court authorized process server will “serve” the divorce papers on the Respondent. This may take 30 days or more, depending on the difficulty in locating the party. It is also possible for the Respondent to consent to jurisdiction and waive formal service, if a proper form is signed, verified, and filed with the court.
Time to Respond and Default
Once the divorce petition is filed and properly served, the Respondent will have 30 days to respond to the Petition. The response must conform to Missouri law and properly filed in court. Failure to do so will result in the Respondent being held in default, which means that the Petitioner could proceed without the court considering any evidence from the Respondent. The court will often award the Petitioner the relief that he or she requests in their Petition, so it is critical that if a party is served with a Petition to retain a divorce attorney or otherwise respond in court.
After a Petition for divorce and a Response have been filed, the parties will usually exchange “discovery.” Discovery is an information gathering process where each party will gather information from the other in preparation for trial. In a divorce case, information is usually obtained by written interrogatories, requests for documents, oral examination (deposition), requests for admissions, and physical or mental examinations. This process will enable the parties and their attorneys to make fully informed settlement negotiations and will assist the court in determining the facts of the case in the event of trial.
Although it is not required for parties to separate upon divorce, that is usually the case. It is also possible to obtain a Legal Separation prior to, or as an alternative to, divorce. Read more about legal separation.
Unlike divorce, which dissolves valid marriages, annulment ends the marital relationship when the marriage was never legally valid to begin with. The grounds for annulment in Missouri include when spouses are relatives, lack of capacity to marry, fraud, lack of assent, impotency, duress, spouse under age, criminal conviction precluding marriage, failure to consummate, and bigamy. Read more about annulment.
After a case for divorce (dissolution of marriage) is filed, a judge may deem it appropriate to, or the parties may voluntarily agree to, use mediation as an attempt to resolve the issues in the case without the time and expense of trial. A mediator may be agreed upon or court appointed, and will act as a neutral party helping the parties to agree on terms such as property division, custody, visitation, child support, and alimony, with minimal or no expense. Any statements or agreements made at mediation are not admissible if the divorce case goes to trial, but parties often times use the agreements at mediation to formulate a separation agreement, or at least narrow the issues for trial.
In some circumstances, it may be possible for a party to get a temporary order from the court. These can be ex parte orders for protection from the other spouse in situations of domestic violence, or they can be orders that last for the duration of the divorce proceeding. These types of orders can include orders for child support, custody, visitation, maintenance, or orders restraining the use, disposition, or destruction of marital assets. As divorce proceedings can take several months, a party would want to consider this type of order if immediate court involvement would be required.
Missouri divorce law categorizes property into “Marital” and “Non-Marital.” The marital property is divided as the court deems equitable, after consideration of the economic circumstances of the parties, contributions to the acquisition of the marital property, the value of each party’s non-marital property, conduct during the marriage, and the custodial arrangements of the children. Read more about property division.
Property Settlement Agreements
Missouri divorce law specifically authorizes settlement agreements. If the parties can agree on the terms of the property division, and the court finds the agreement not to be unconscionable, the court will approve the agreement and incorporate it into the final Decree.
Maintenance, sometimes known as alimony, is support for the former spouse. Maintenance can be granted to either spouse, but only if the court finds that the spouse seeking maintenance (1) lacks sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs, and (2) is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment. Read more about spousal maintenance.
Child Custody and Visitation
There are 4 different categories of child custody arrangements: sole legal custody, sole physical custody, joint legal custody, and joint physical custody. The specific schedule of visitation and terms for each parenting plan vary from case to case, and depend on each family’s particular situation. At any stage of the divorce proceeding, the parents may enter into a written parenting plan, which will detail the terms of the custody, support, and visitation arrangement. However, before approving such an arrangement, the court must consider whether it is in the best interests of the children. Read more about child custody.
In a Missouri divorce, the court may order one or both or the parents owing a duty of support to a child to pay for their support. The amount of child support is calculated by the use of a formula called the Form 14, and the primary factors that are considered are the number of children and the gross incomes of the parties before taxes and deductions. Read more about child support.
Modification of Decrees
Under Missouri divorce law, child support, custody, and visitation are always modifiable, even if the decree states otherwise. A party must show a change of circumstances to support a modification of child support, and a modification of custody or visitation must be in the best interests of the child. Read more about modification of decrees.
Consult with an Experienced Missouri Divorce Lawyer
The choice of a divorce attorney is a critical one. Mark A. Wortman is an experienced Kansas City divorce lawyer practicing throughout Jackson, Platte, Clay, and Cass counties at honest, fair fees. Call our Kansas City law firm at 816-523-6100, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete our online form to speak to a divorce attorney today.