If you’ve decided to end your marriage, but aren’t familiar with the divorce process, you probably have no idea where to begin. This article will cover the basics of filing for divorce in Missouri.
In Missouri, courts refer to a divorce as the “dissolution of marriage.” The spouse that files for (requests) divorce is called the “petitioner” and the other spouse is the “respondent.”
At least one spouse must be a Missouri resident for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce in Missouri.
Missouri requires all spouses representing themselves in a divorce to complete a “litigant awareness program,” which can be done by either watching an on-line video or reading the on-line materials. Once completed, the self-represented spouse must fill in a certificate of completion form and file it with the circuit court.
The “Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage” form (legal paperwork requesting the divorce) initiates the divorce process. If there are any children from the marriage (meaning children who are under 18 years of age and still in high school, or children who are in college full time and under 21 years old), their names must be included so the court may make orders regarding their financial support and custody.
The judicial branch website at www.courts.mo.gov has a link to the court forms under the “Represent Yourself” tab. Here, you can access a pamphlet with fill-in divorce forms. These forms request a great deal of information. It’s best to read through all of the forms first, gather the necessary information and then type in the forms online. You can then print out completed forms.
Once the petition and the "Confidential Case Filing Information Sheet" is completed, the petitioner spouse must file this paperwork in the circuit court for his or her county.
Missouri has 45 regional circuit courts with each court covering several counties. Check the “Your Courts” tab on the state judicial branch website for links to a state map and county-specific information. At the time of filing, the petitioner must either pay a filing fee to the court or request a fee waiver.
Under Missouri law, the respondent spouse must be served with copies of the petition for dissolution by one of the following methods:
It’s a good idea to bring more than one copy of the petition to the court when you file, so you can use the extra copy for proper service on your spouse.
If your spouse does not want to be served directly, he or she may complete an “Answer,” which is part of the on-line package of forms. As part of the answer, the respondent is acknowledging that he or she has received a copy of the petition and that the court has authority over the case.
The answer can also be used to file the respondent’s official response to the divorce petition. The respondent can state whether he or she agrees with or disputes any of the petitioner’s statements contained in the petition.
Both spouses must complete a “Statement of Income and Expenses.” This form is used by the judge at a hearing if either side asks for alimony (also referred to as maintenance) or child support.
A parenting plan is a separate document that outlines the children’s schedule with each parent and covers all other custody matters regarding how the children are going to be raised after the divorce.
Divorcing parents can reach an agreement on this matter, or if they cannot agree, each parent can file his or her own proposed parenting plan and ask the judge to decide.
You can find lots of free legal information about divorcing in Missouri in our section on Missouri Divorce and Family Laws.
The state judicial website at www.courts.mo.gov has a tab for “Court Forms.” This link will bring the user to the page, “representing yourself in Missouri courts, access to family courts.” The “Legal Forms” tab on this page redirects the user to the “Petitioner’s Forms Package.”
The “Representing Yourself” page also contains links to mediation programs, publications on representing yourself, and FAQ’s. The “Resources by County” tab gives the user contact info for local help, including legal aid offices and access to individual courts’ local rules.