Missouri Divorce Law
Getting a divorce in Missouri isn’t like getting one in any other state. Some laws and practices may be similar to those in other states, but if you approach the process with a general understanding of how it works, the intricacies of Missouri’s divorce laws could put you at a significant disadvantage. You may lose out on getting alimony, specific marital property or child custody or visitation rights.
LawInfo’s Missouri Divorce Law articles can help relieve some of the stress of the process. You’ll learn about the state’s divorce prerequisites, how property is divided and many other divorce topics. Whether you need assistance in Kansas City, St. Louis or Springfield, LawInfo can help connect you with a Missouri divorce attorney.
Missouri Divorce Timeline
How long it takes to finalize your divorce depends entirely on the cooperation of both parties. At a minimum, a Missouri court can deliver the final divorce decree once you or your spouse have fulfilled the Missouri divorce residency requirement of 90 days prior to filing and after 30 days have passed after filing.
If you and your partner can make agreements on the details of your divorce—such as child custody, alimony and property distribution—prior to filing, you could have your divorce finalized in as little as a month after filing. Otherwise, if these details need court mediation, the process can take months or several years.
Alimony in Missouri
Sometimes divorce can put a spouse at a financial disadvantage, especially if they retain custody of the children. Even if they receive some portion of the marital property and child support, divorce can be especially challenging if the spouse can’t work due to childcare responsibilities or would be forced to suspend any educational or training opportunities to support themselves.
In these kinds of cases, a Missouri court may consider awarding the disadvantaged spouse alimony (or “maintenance”), which is when the other spouse pays a stipend for financial support. The duration and amount of alimony that may be ordered depend on the court’s findings based on a list of statutory factors, including:
- How long the marriage lasted.
- Each party’s conduct during the marriage. (Divorce fault grounds can affect alimony judgments.)
- Each party’s earning capacity.
- Each party’s obligations and assets. This includes any awarded or retained marital and separate property.
- The disadvantaged spouse’s age and physical and emotional health.
Equitable Distribution in Missouri
In Missouri, you are not guaranteed ownership to half of everything you and your spouse owned in a divorce. Unless you and your spouse agree to split your marital property in half, the court will make a judgment of equitable distribution. This means that the court will determine a fair division of marital property based on numerous factors. It also means that the division may not be necessarily equal.
Only marital property will be considered for distribution, which includes all assets and debts acquired during the marriage with a few exceptions. Separate property—which includes assets and debts owned individually prior to marriage and inheritances, gifts, or insurance payouts earned during marriage—is seldom included in a distribution judgment.
The court bases its distribution judgment on:
- Child custody arrangements.
- The value of each spouse’s retained separate
- Each spouse’s economic circumstances following the divorce.
- The custodial parent’s desire to own or keep a residence in the family home.
- Each spouse’s marital conduct.
- Each spouse’s contribution toward the marital property’s acquisition.