Missouri Divorce Laws and Guidelines

Missouri state has its own unique set of divorce laws, which can be complex and nuanced. Understanding these laws is crucial for anyone going through a divorce in MO.

If you are getting into a divorce in Missouri, it is beneficial to be knowledgeable about the divorce laws. Whether you decide to hire an MO family attorney or handle the divorce yourself, you will need to make important decisions and should be aware of what to anticipate.

The courts in MO will consider various factors in the divorce settlement, including property division, spousal support, and child custody and support. Missouri is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally.

In this article, we will take a comprehensive dive into everything you need to know about Missouri divorce laws and guidelines, so you make your best decision while you move along.

Types of Divorce in MO

In Missouri, there are two main types of divorce: contested and uncontested. These types of divorce differ in the level of cooperation and agreement between the spouses.

  1. Contested Divorce:

In a contested divorce, the spouses cannot agree on important issues such as property division, child custody, visitation, or support. This type of divorce usually involves litigation and requires the involvement of lawyers to negotiate or litigate the terms of the divorce.

  1. Uncontested Divorce:

An uncontested divorce, also known as a no-fault divorce, is a type of divorce where the spouses agree on all the issues related to the divorce. The couple must have reached an agreement on issues such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division before filing for an uncontested divorce. This type of divorce is faster, less expensive, and less stressful than a contested divorce.

Within these two types of divorce, there are different ways to file for divorce, including:

  • Simplified Divorce: This is a simplified and quick divorce process available to couples who have no children and have been married for less than 8 years.
  • Collaborative Divorce: In a collaborative divorce, each spouse hires their own attorney to negotiate a settlement agreement outside of court.
  • Mediated Divorce: In a mediated divorce, a neutral third-party mediator helps the spouses to reach an agreement on issues related to the divorce.
  • Default Divorce: This occurs when one spouse files for divorce and the other spouse does not respond to the filing, leading to the court granting the divorce in favor of the filing party.

Divorce rate in Missouri


According to the United States Census Bureau, the divorce rate in Missouri in 2019 was 8.6%, which is slightly higher than the national average of 7.6%. The divorce rate in Missouri has been gradually declining since the early 2000s, when it peaked at around 11%. Despite this decline, divorce remains a common occurrence in Missouri, with thousands of couples filing for divorce each year. The reasons for divorce in Missouri can vary, but common causes include infidelity, financial problems, and irreconcilable differences.

How to File for Divorce in MO

Filing for divorce in Missouri State can be a complicated process, involving various legal requirements and procedures. In general, the process involves filing the necessary paperwork with the MO family court, serving the other spouse with the divorce papers, and attending court hearings as required. The specific steps involved can vary depending on the type of divorce, whether it is contested or uncontested, and other factors.

Divorce Process in Missouri

To file for divorce in Missouri, you will need to follow these general steps:

  1. Meet the residency requirements: At least one spouse must have been a resident of Missouri for 90 days before filing for divorce.
  2. Determine the grounds for divorce: Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you don’t need to prove fault to get a divorce. You can simply state that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  3. Fill out the required forms: You will need to complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and other forms required by the court.
  4. File the forms with the court: File the forms with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where either you or your spouse lives.
  5. Serve your spouse: After filing the forms, you must have your spouse served with a copy of the forms and a summons to appear in court.
  6. Wait for your spouse’s response: Your spouse will have 30 days to respond to the petition. If they don’t respond, you can request a default judgment.
  7. Attend court hearings: If your spouse responds to the petition, you will need to attend court hearings to resolve any contested issues such as child custody, property division, and spousal support.
  8. Finalize the divorce: If all issues are resolved, you will need to sign a settlement agreement and the court will issue a final judgment of dissolution of marriage.

Online Divorce in Missouri

Online divorce is a possible option for some couples in Missouri. you need to choose an online divorce service and complete an online questionnaire that will ask for information about you, your spouse, and your marriage.

You can read our comprehensive guide about online divorce here.

Cost of Divorce in Missouri

The cost of a divorce in Missouri can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Some factors that can influence the cost of divorce in MO include the complexity of the issues involved, the level of conflict between the parties, and the fees charged by lawyers and the court.

For an uncontested divorce, the cost may range from $500 to $1,500 in total, including court filing fees and lawyer fees. However, if the divorce is contested, the cost can increase significantly, with some couples spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees, expert witnesses, and court costs.

In Missouri, the mandatory court filing fee for a divorce is around $162.50. Other mandatory fees may include fees for serving the divorce papers to the other party, fees for obtaining copies of court documents, and fees for mediation or alternative dispute resolution services.


Divorce Papers and Forms MO

MO requires various forms and papers to be filed in order to initiate and complete a divorce. These papers and forms can vary depending on the circumstances of the divorce, such as whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, whether children are involved, and the assets and debts of the couple.

Some of the most common forms required in a Missouri State divorce include a Summons with Notice or Summons and Complaint, a Verified Complaint, Affidavit of Service, and a Judgment of Divorce.

Grounds for Divorce in MO

In Missouri, divorce is a legal process that can be initiated by either spouse when a marriage is irretrievably broken. However, there are also other grounds for divorce that may be used in certain circumstances. These grounds are specific reasons for divorce that must be proven in court. Here is an overview of the grounds for divorce in MO:

  1. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage: This is the most common ground for divorce in Missouri. It simply means that the marriage is no longer working and cannot be fixed.
  2. Adultery.
  3. Abandonment: If one spouse has left the other spouse without a good reason for at least six continuous months, the other spouse may use abandonment as grounds for divorce.
  4. Separation: If the spouses have lived apart for at least 12 continuous months and have no reasonable expectation of reconciliation, either spouse may use separation as grounds for divorce.
  5. Substance abuse: If one spouse has a history of alcohol or drug abuse that has led to the breakdown of the marriage, the other spouse may use substance abuse as grounds for divorce.

Requirement and Waiting Period

There are certain waiting periods and requirements that must be met before a divorce can be finalized in MO. Here is an overview of the waiting period and requirements for divorce in Missouri:

  1. Residency requirement: At least one spouse must be a resident of Missouri for 90 days before filing for divorce in the state.
  2. Waiting period: Missouri has a 30-day waiting period from the date the petition for divorce is filed before the divorce can be finalized. However, this waiting period can be waived if both spouses agree and the court grants the waiver.
  3. No-fault divorce: Missouri recognizes “no-fault” divorce, which means that a divorce can be granted simply because the marriage is irretrievably broken. No proof of wrongdoing or fault is required.
  4. Property division: Missouri is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. The court will consider factors such as each spouse’s financial situation, earning capacity, and contributions to the marriage when dividing property.
  5. Child custody and support: In Missouri, child custody and support are determined based on the best interests of the child. The court will consider factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, and any special needs of the child.

How a MO Judge Will Divide Marital Property

Marital property in MO is divided according to the principle of “equitable distribution,” which means that property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. When deciding how to divide marital property, judges in Missouri will consider a number of factors, including:

  1. Each spouse’s financial situation, including their income, assets, and debts.
  2. Each spouse’s earning capacity, including their education, training, and job skills.
  3. The contributions each spouse made to the marriage, including financial contributions, homemaking contributions, and contributions to the care and upbringing of children.
  4. The length of the marriage.
  5. The needs of each spouse, including their age, health, and future earning potential.
  6. The conduct of the parties during the marriage, including any misconduct such as adultery, abuse, or financial impropriety.

Based on these factors, the judge will make a determination about how to divide the marital property. Not all property is considered marital property in Missouri; property that was acquired before the marriage or through inheritance or gift is typically considered separate property and is not subject to division in a divorce.

Basics of Missouri Divorce

While we have discussed major points about MO divorce, there are still some other basics that you need to know when it comes to divorce in Missouri. Here are some of them:

Child Custody in Missouri

Child custody after a MO divorce is determined based on the best interests of the child. When making a custody determination, the court will consider a number of factors, including:

  1. The child’s relationship with each parent.
  2. Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.
  3. Each parent’s willingness to encourage and facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent.
  4. The child’s preferences, if the child is old enough to express a preference.
  5. The mental and physical health of each parent.
  6. The ability of each parent to cooperate and communicate

Divorce in MO Without Spouse Signature

In MO, if one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse does not want to sign the divorce papers, the process can still move forward. The spouse seeking the divorce can file a Summons with Notice or a Summons and Verified Complaint with the court, which the other spouse will be served with.

If the other spouse fails to respond to the court within a certain period of time, the MO court may enter a default judgment in favor of the spouse seeking the divorce. However, if the other spouse contests the divorce, the court may require a trial to determine the grounds for divorce and any related issues such as property division and child custody.

MO Child Support Guidelines

In Missouri, child support is calculated based on state guidelines. The guidelines take into account the incomes of both parents, the number of children being supported, and other factors such as child care expenses and health insurance costs.

The Missouri Family Support Division provides an online child support calculator that can help parents estimate the amount of child support they may be required to pay or receive. The actual amount of child support ordered by the court may differ from the estimated amount.

Parents in Missouri are required to provide financial support for their children until they reach the age of 18 or graduate from high school, whichever comes later. In cases where a child has special needs, support may be extended beyond these limits.

Divorce Records in MO

Divorce records in MO are considered public records and are maintained by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. These records can be obtained by individuals who are parties to the divorce or by their authorized representatives.

To obtain a copy of a divorce record in Missouri, you will need to provide the full names of both parties, the date of the divorce, and the county where the divorce was granted. You may also need to provide a valid government-issued photo ID and pay a fee to obtain a copy of the record.

While divorce records are considered public records in Missouri, some information contained in the records may be confidential, such as financial information or information related to child custody.

How to Hire a Divorce Attorney in MO

Hiring a divorce lawyer in Missouri can be a crucial decision for individuals going through a divorce. A divorce lawyer can provide legal advice and representation throughout the divorce process, ensuring that the individual’s rights and interests are protected.

When hiring a divorce lawyer in MO, you need to consider their experience, qualifications, and reputation. It is recommended to choose a lawyer who specializes in family law and has experience handling divorce cases similar to your own.

The cost of hiring a divorce lawyer in Missouri can vary depending on the lawyer’s experience and the complexity of the case. Some lawyers charge a flat fee for their services, while others charge an hourly rate. It is important to discuss the lawyer’s fees and payment options upfront to avoid any surprises later on.


Divorce in MO; Who Gets What?

In Missouri, the property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally between spouses during a divorce based on the principle of equitable distribution. Marital property acquired during the marriage is subject to division, while some assets such as those acquired before the marriage or through inheritance or gifts may be exempt. The court will make a determination if the parties cannot agree on the division of property.

What is a Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in MO?

In a divorce in Missouri, a wife is entitled to a fair distribution of marital property acquired during the marriage and may also receive spousal support if she demonstrates financial need and if the court determines the other spouse has the ability to pay.

Divorce in MO with Child; How does it Work?

In an Missouri divorce with a child, the court considers the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and support. Joint or sole custody may be awarded, and child support is determined based on a formula that considers each parent’s income and the child’s needs. A divorce lawyer can provide guidance and help ensure a fair outcome for the child.

How Long does it take to get a Divorce in MO?

The time it takes to get a divorce in Missouri varies depending on whether it is contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce can be finalized in several months, while a contested divorce can take years. There is a mandatory waiting period of at least six months. It’s important to work with a divorce lawyer to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.


Missouri divorce laws and guidelines are intricate and have a wide range of matters to be addressed. It is vital to have a good understanding of these laws in order to make informed decisions and ensure a fair outcome. By understanding these MO divorce laws, individuals can better prepare themselves for the process and take the necessary steps to protect their rights and interests.

Missouri Resource

- Missouri Child Adoption Guidelines
- Missouri Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
- Missouri Child Support Guidelines
- Missouri Divorce Guidelines
- Missouri Marital Property Guidelines
- Missouri Spousal Support Guidelines
- How to Check Missouri Child Support Payment History
- Missouri Child Support Calculator
- Missouri Grants and Assistance for Single Mothers

Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.

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