Divorce Cost in Missouri

If you’re facing divorce, the divorce cost in Missouri shouldn’t be your biggest concern. Although divorce can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. This guide will help you understand all the costs involved in a Missouri divorce so that you’re prepared and can focus on the most important thing: your family.

Masterson Law

Summer Masterson-Goethals

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Missouri?

Divorce costs in Missouri affect many of the state’s citizens, since there are 3.3 divorces for every 1,000 people there. However divorce, also known as a dissolution of marriage or the termination of marital rights and responsibilities, can take many forms. The cost of divorce varies by type of divorce and depending on the specific situation at hand. Couples may opt to choose one of the following types of divorce in Missouri:

  • Contested divorce – When a couple utilizes a court to make a formal judgment because they cannot agree on issues like child support or division of assets  
  • Uncontested divorce – When a couple agrees on all matters, so the court does not have to do anything except process the paperwork and finalize the divorce

If you are getting divorced, you will likely also hear terms like “no fault divorce” or “DIY divorce.” These are not official types of divorce, but they characterize provisions of the state law or describe ways you can handle the process. A “no fault divorce,” for example, is a provision in state family law that says couples do not need to have a specific reason why they are pursuing a divorce (like adultery or abuse), they can get one whatever the reason they want one. A “DIY divorce” is when the couple getting divorced handles the paperwork themselves, usually via an online service.

Divorce cost in Missouri is typically made up of at least two items: filing fees and attorney’s fees. To file for divorce in Missouri, you can expect to pay about $163. If you are using an attorney for your divorce in Missouri, their work may cost around anywhere from $200-500 per hour. Some attorneys also require a retainer fee which you pay upfront; this provides funding to get the lawyer and their staff started on your case and averages about $200.

Despite these figures, there’s no easy way to estimate the cost of your divorce in Missouri. Each case is different. The general factors that affect the cost of divorce are:

  • Type of divorce (contested vs. uncontested)
  • Attorney fees, if you are using an attorney
  • State filing fees
  • Sheriff’s fees for serving spouse
  • If your county requires a court appearance to finalize the divorce
  • Appraisals, property assessment fees, and more

In the following sections, we will take a closer look at the issues that affect the cost of divorce, how you can keep these costs to a minimum, and more. You’ll read about:

  • Average Cost of Divorce in Missouri
  • Breakdown of Cost of Divorce in Missouri
  • How Drama Can Affect the Cost of Divorce in Missouri
  • How to Reduce the Cost of Divorce in Missouri
  • How Does Divorce Cost in Missouri Stack Up to Other States?

And remember, if you’re facing a divorce in Missouri and have questions about the cost, contact an experienced Missouri divorce attorney to talk now.

Average Cost of Divorce in Missouri

The average cost of a divorce in Missouri will depend on if the divorce is contested or uncontested, with contested being more expensive. This is because a contested divorce typically requires more time to resolve all the issues the couple does not agree on, whereas in an uncontested divorce, everyone agrees and time for negotiating is not required. To get more specific about cost, total costs of a contested divorce in Missouri ranges from $4,000-$29,000, with the average cost at $13,500. This will vary based on if there are assets like a family business or home to divide or problems with custody of children.

In an uncontested divorce, which will cost significantly less, some Missouri attorneys will charge a flat fee rather than a retainer and hourly rate. The flat fee could be as low as $500, but it will increase if there are any complicating factors. Regardless of if your divorce is contested or uncontested, you will have to pay the court filing fees, which average $163 in Missouri. Some more populated counties with busier courts charge higher fees; for example St. Louis County  charges $225 to file for divorce. Even in an uncontested divorce in Missouri, you may have to pay $25-$50 for a sheriff to serve the spouse divorce papers to your spouse. Finally, you can expect the average cost of an uncontested divorce to increase if your live in a county where a divorce attorney is required to be present at the finalization, since you’ll have to pay for their time. Currently, forty-five counties in Missouri allow couples to divorce by written affidavit with no attorney present.

Those divorcing in Missouri may have the option of filing in a different state if they live, work, or own property there. When considering this option, it is important to know that other states have differing divorce filing fees and processes may diverge from what is common in Missouri. For example, California has the highest filing fee in the country at $435, so it might not be beneficial to you to process your divorce there. North Dakota, on the other hand, has an average filing fee of only $80 and the lowest overall average divorce cost at $8,300. As for differences in processing divorce, state laws may differ on what what is required to divorce, and divorce processing time vary greatly. In Alaska it can take just thirty days to get divorced, whereas in New Jersey the minimum time is nearly a year (360 days).

Don’t go through divorce alone just because you’re scared of the cost of divorce in Missouri. Summer Masterson-Goethals is an experienced divorce attorney who believes every client deserves quality representation.

Breakdown of Cost of Divorce in Missouri

When looking at a breakdown of cost of divorce in Missouri, the two main things you will pay for are lawyer’s costs and filing fees. Of course, there may be other costs as well, depending on your situation. When you pay your lawyer, you’re paying for his or her staff to do research, accurately fill out and file paperwork, make copies of documents for records, and turn everything into the court on time, as well as for the attorney to advise you and appear in court. The attorney fees you incur will depend on the complexity and type of divorce and if you’ve agreed to pay an hourly rate or a flat fee.

Keep in mind your lawyer’s fees and filing fees are different. The filing fees help defray the costs of that court’s operations. They are meant to cover the time the court spends reviewing and processing your documents. In addition to paying for an attorney and paying the court, other costs involved in divorce may include:

  • Property or Asset Appraisal – $300-$400
  • Petition Delivery (Sheriff Fee) – $25 (or more if you don’t know the whereabouts of your spouse)
  • Family/Child Counseling – Cost Varies
  • Notary Fee – $2-$10 (though your bank/credit union may offer it as a free service)
  • Divorce Documents – Free-$50
  • Moving Costs – Varies
  • Financial Lawyer/Accountant for Property and Asset Division – Varies

No two divorce cases are alike. While the court makes decisions for the disagreeing parties in a contested divorce, it can be more expensive and more challenging emotionally for the divorcing parties than an uncontested divorce. It can also mean the difference between an affordable and very expensive divorce since uncontested divorce may cost around $500, and contested up to $29,000 in court fees, attorney fees, and other costs. Whether you and your spouse agree on issues and the complexity of the case will affect the final cost (e.g. custody of children, division of joint assets and home, etc.).

Regardless of the type of divorce sought, you will be required to pay filing fees which can cost up to $225 in some Missouri counties. If you are facing divorce but cannot afford the filing fee, you may fill out an economic hardship application sometimes referred to as In Forma Pauperis. If a judge determines you qualify and approves your application after reviewing your detailed financial information, this will waive your court filing fees. To see filing fee information or find waiver applications for your county, visit your local court’s website.

Other fees incurred during divorce proceedings may be:

  • Document Copy Charges: Copies of documents like your tax returns, financial statements, mortgage deed, etc. may be required.
  • Forensic Accountant: Forensic accountants, whose costs can range into the hundreds per hour, may be required to track down all the information if you suspect your spouse is trying to hide assets.
  • Appraisers: You may need the to retain the services of an expert appraiser, who might cost a few thousand dollars, to assess the value of your property if you own real estate, a business, antiques, or other high-end items.
  • Child-related Fees: There are many ways children can potentially add to divorce costs, including Guardian Ad Litem fees, parenting classes (required in some jurisdictions), or additional attorney’s fees since there are serious issues like custody and child support payments to resolve.

If you have concerns about the cost of your Missouri divorce, reach out to a trustworthy attorney who can help you understand the breakdown of costs in your unique situation.

How Drama Can Affect the Cost of Divorce in Missouri

As mentioned above, a contested divorce where the divorcing spouses do not agree on all issues is almost always more costly than an uncontested divorce where the parties agree to terms on their own. This, of course, is due to the additional time needed from lawyers, mediators, and other professionals in a contested divorce. On top of that, if there are children involved, it almost always makes a divorce more challenging for the family as well as more expensive. Contested divorces with children in the picture are often the most costly type of divorce since issues like custody can turn into long, drawn out legal battles that costs thousands of dollars and several hours in court to resolve.

Naturally, parents want the best for their children. But in the worst divorces- nasty, dramatic cases where the spouses cannot communicate effectively, let alone agree- children are sometimes treated as a bargaining chip and just one more thing to argue over. This drama, in addition to being harmful to the family’s emotional well-being, becomes expensive since professionals are necessary to mediate the arguments. Additionally, when children are involved, divorce will often require a Guardian Ad Litem (an objective, court-appointed guardian who has the best interests of the child in mind), counseling, parenting classes, and so on. These child-related fees can add up quickly.

In fact, having minor children can cause the price of getting a divorce to go up by nearly 50%. The average contested divorce in Missouri costs $13,500, but when children are involved that cost increases to an average $20,200. Some of the costs that go into this increase are:

  • the Guardian Ad Litem (who determines the child’s living arrangements, parental contact, etc.) fees of $150-$250 per hour
  • a custody assessment by a mental health professional that can cost between $1,000-$2,500
  • parenting classes where the couple is familiarized with the impact of divorce on children, which can often be done online for as little as $20

Issues relating to children are not the only source of drama that can add to divorce costs. If one spouse wishes to receive alimony, or spousal support, and the other spouse does not agree, the cost of the divorce can increase due to the need for financial experts or vocational analysts. The average contested divorce with alimony questions costs $18,600 in Missouri (over $5,000 more than average contested). Property division disputes can also add to the cost since expert appraisals are required and more time is needed: contested divorces with these issues average $18,900 in Missouri. Couples who disagree over the division of multiple savings accounts, vehicles, retirement accounts, investments, and real estate will also incur higher costs. If you are facing a contested divorce with any of these complicated elements, make sure to retain an experienced divorce attorney to help you.

How to Reduce the Cost of Divorce in Missouri

The cost of divorce in Missouri may be lower for you depending on your situation or if you take certain steps to reduce costs. If your divorce is uncontested and you and your spouse agree on most issues, you may be able to file for divorce using an online service for between $250-$500. You might also use a mediator, a professional who you do have to pay for but who will reduce your need for hours with attorneys and hours in court (and thus reduce your costs). A mediator may reduce time and attorney’s fees by $5,000.

To keep divorce costs low and efficiently part from your spouse, try the following:

  • Negotiate an agreement with your spouse first to avoid paying attorney fees altogether.
  • Know what your attorney is doing and what you’re paying for.
  • Give the lawyer all the information they need: don’t hide anything or else they will have to spend more time gathering that information.
  • Hire an experienced attorney versus a recent law school graduate. Experienced attorneys will draw on their experience in order to handle your case efficiently.

Even with these tips, divorce might still seem out of your reach financially. Don’t despair though, you still have options. If your income falls below the federal poverty line or your spouse makes significantly more than you do, you might be able to receive free legal aid or have your spouse pay your legal fees. Also, some private practice attorneys may be willing to work with you on fees.

How Does Divorce Cost in Missouri Stack Up to Other States?

The average cost of a divorce nationally is in line with Missouri’s average divorce cost, at about $13,500. However, regardless of your location, individual situations may differ since the cost of divorce depends on the type of divorce, time required, children, and assets. The time it takes to get a divorce also varies based on those factors and on location.

Attorney costs may vary whether in Missouri or anywhere else in the country, although it is a general rule of thumb that attorney costs are lower in rural areas and higher in highly populated urban areas. That corresponds with average divorce filing fees, which are typically lower in rural areas and higher in city centers (such as in Missouri, where the average is $163, but in St. Louis county filing fees are $225). Attorney costs will also often vary based on the lawyer’s experience, but it is worth it to hire an experienced attorney, especially if you have a complicated case.

Don’t go through divorce alone just because you’re scared of the cost of divorce in Missouri. Summer Masterson-Goethals is an experienced divorce attorney who believes every client deserves quality representation.

CONTACT SUMMER

Summer Masterson-Goethals
Consumer and family lawyer, former legal aid attorney and Missouri Bar Leadership Academy member, Springfield Business Journal 40 under 40 Honoree.

Masterson Law
1771 S. Fremont
Springfield, MO 65804
(417) 522-1280

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