A Comprehensive Guide to Divorce in Missouri
No one enters into a marriage intending to get a divorce in Missouri. Unfortunately, however, circumstances occur, and people grow apart for any number of reasons. If you are considering a dissolution of marriage, you should understand the state’s divorce laws and how they might pertain to your circumstances.
Divorce in Missouri Topics:
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Summer Masterson-Goethals is an academically published writer for the Missouri Bar, a Springfield Business Journal Top 40 Under 40 winner, continuing legal education speaker and can help you with your divorce in Missouri.
The Missouri Divorce Process
Missouri residents contemplating divorce should be aware of the various rules and procedures before initiating the first steps. Divorce in Missouri is difficult enough, so navigating your way through it shouldn’t be. This guide has the most current, comprehensive information to help you through the process, whether you’re considering it or have already filed the petition.
Before you file your divorce, you should retain the services of an experienced divorce attorney. Summer Masterson-Goethals of Masterson Law will provide the information and advocacy to help you understand your rights and responsibilities and decide on what’s best for you, your family, and your future.
General Overview of the Missouri Divorce Process
Divorce, often referred to as a dissolution of marriage in the State of Missouri, is a court judgment ending a marriage. In addition to having a “legal reason” for seeking a divorce, the following Missouri residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case:
- One party must have been a resident of the state of Missouri for ninety days before the proceeding. The exception to the residency law is if the party is a member of the armed forces who is currently stationed in Missouri.
- Thirty days must have elapsed since the filing of the petition or, the other spouse receiving it, before the dissolution of marriage will be granted. The proceeding will take place in the petitioner (plaintiff) or responder’s (defendant) county of residence.
Grounds for a Missouri Divorce
Missouri divorce laws utilize the limited “no fault” divorce, meaning you could obtain a dissolution without proof of abuse, adultery, etc. Typically, most couples divorce due to irreconcilable differences, though other grounds may be alleged to the court.
An example would be to cite in the divorce papers that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Both parties may be asked to state, under oath, that their marriage cannot be preserved. However, if one spouse denies it, the other may choose to prove adultery, abuse, or other factors to help the court decide on the matter.
The Court’s Role in a Missouri Divorce
While there is no need to prove fault to be granted a divorce, the court may consider any of the following (not limited to) when deciding whether the marriage should be dissolved:
- Spouse committed adultery.
- Couple lived apart for at least twelve months (willingly) or at least twenty-four months (unwillingly) before they filed for divorce.
- You were abandoned by your spouse for six or more continuous months.
- Spouse is involved in criminal activity.
If the court decides that the marriage may still work or not enough evidence for grounds of divorce exists (the marriage is not irretrievably broken), it will grant a legal separation. The court may also decide on the separation of property and financial resources (as well as debts and other liabilities), the granting of spousal support, custody, and child support for any minor children shared by both spouses.
MO Divorce Laws
Knowing the Missouri law regarding divorce may offer you peace of mind and confidence as you pursue a dissolution of your marriage. The divorce process is complex and fraught with physical and emotional consequences. Even when there has been a legal separation agreement, the likelihood that the marriage has ended presents a certain finality.
Once you have filed a petition for divorce, everything will change. This includes your relationship with extended family members, your financial status, your day-to-day routine, your home life, and perhaps your residence. At such a stressful time, the individuals involved often are reacting emotionally rather than strategically.
Division of Assets and Debts After You File Your Divorce
When you prepare to file for divorce, you should realize that Missouri is a no-fault divorce, equal distribution state. This means that whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce, the courts will make every effort to divide assets and property fairly and equitably to promote the best interests of both spouses and any minor children. This does not, however, mean that the judge will split everything 50/50 in all cases.
In a Missouri divorce, there are marital assets accumulated during the course of the marriage and separate assets owned prior to the marriage. In some cases, gifts or inheritances are also considered individual property. This can be a complex matter, so it’s wise to seek legal advice on sufficient property division before any written agreement is finalized.
In other cases, marital property division can be accomplished relatively easily. There is an essential list of property that includes items that are often considered individual possessions in a separation. This is true in most states.
This list consists of, but is not limited to, the following:
- House or property
- Life insurance coverage policies
- Personal checking account
During the division of property, the court decides which assets are treated as marital and which are separate. It places a fair value on each asset and then divides them in accordance with each spouse’s best interest.
In a Missouri divorce, both parties are liable for any debt acquired throughout the marriage. Therefore, both are responsible for their repayment.
Although divorce is never an easy choice, an established law firm can offer competent legal advice and representation when you take your case to court.
Relevant Factors Regarding Child Support, Custody, and Visitation
Although matters regarding child support, child custody, and visitation are often settled along with the dissolution of marriage in the family court division of the Circuit Court, they may be addressed separately.
Generally, in Missouri, when a marriage is irretrievably broken, the courts choose “joint custody,” where the parents share custody as the right option for the child’s wellbeing. Unfortunately, although most parents wish the best for their children, they find it difficult to agree on child support and custody. That is when the court decides who retains legal and physical custody.
Physical custody determines where the child will live, whether with one parent or split between them. Joint legal custody is typically granted where both parents have the right to make decisions involving the child’s education and health. The court may require a statement of income and expenses to determine the amount of financial support necessary for the child’s security.
The court rarely orders sole custody of the child to one spouse unless the conduct of the parties during the marriage indicates abuse or neglect occurred, and it is necessary to protect the child’s welfare.
Hire an attorney with family law experience if you need to file for a divorce in Missouri that involves creating a parenting plan. She can offer the support and mediation that makes the process a smooth one.
Common-Law Marriage Missouri
Common-law marriage allows a couple to present themselves as and be considered married even when they haven’t been formally wed in a civil or religious ceremony. A few states even recognize the couple to be married for legal purposes under certain conditions, including Iowa and Kansas.
Contrary to popular belief, a couple doesn’t automatically become common law married after living together for long enough. There are three requirements that they must meet in those states that do allow common law marriage:
- Both parties must be able to marry, such as being of legal age and mental capacity
- They must present a marriage agreement
- They must publicly present each other as their spouse
Missouri doesn’t recognize the state of common law marriage. However, under the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, the couple is still considered legally married in Missouri when a marriage has been officially recognized in another state.
To further complicate matters, common law divorce does not exist. A couple who was common law married in another state and then moved to Missouri would have to petition for dissolution of that marriage and file for divorce like any other married couple.
The filing spouse must have been a Missouri resident for at least 90 days before doing so. He or she must state that the marriage is irretrievably broken or state the grounds for divorce. They will be unable to marry another until the divorce process has been completed according to the Missouri state laws. For more information on this, contact a reputable MO divorce attorney.
Types of Divorce in Missouri
Guide to Types of Divorce in Missouri
When you decide to file for divorce, under Missouri divorce laws, there are a few terms you will need to become familiar with including legal separation, contested divorce, uncontested divorce, no-fault divorce, and even quick or ‘DIY’ divorce.
Legally speaking, a ‘divorce’ is called a dissolution of marriage in Missouri. This is the process of terminating the marital rights and responsibilities of the two parties. This termination will include a discussion on the reasons for dissolution, dividing assets, provisional obligations for the spouse after dissolution, minor children arrangements, and tax issues.
Simply put, there are actually only two ‘types’ of divorce: contested and uncontested. Legal separation is a measure that is very similar to divorce with the key difference being it is used when the court determines there is a reasonable likelihood the marriage can be saved. The other terms we’ll review in this section characterize parts of the dissolution process or provisions of the actual law.
Understanding your choices will help you choose what’s best for your situation.
Contested Missouri Divorce Process
When spouses can’t agree on alimony, issues regarding their minor children, division of debt, and so on, the court will make decisions for them in a contested divorce. Often, this prolongs the process of divorce in Missouri and results in a higher divorce cost, but it’s the best way to ensure both parties are heard and all evidence is presented.
Uncontested Missouri Divorce
An uncontested divorce means that you and your former spouse agree on all the critical issues in your divorce in Missouri, such as property division, support, custody and visitation of your minor children. You must have a total agreement.
In this case, both spouses can file a petition together (called a joint petition), part of the necessary Missouri divorce forms, along with a copy of their written agreement. This is the speediest divorce in Missouri option because, by doing this, the couple bypasses the divorce process and proceeds to a final hearing in front of a judge.
Generally, a divorce order is granted at this stage.
In Missouri, legal separation, or separate maintenance, is an alternative to the divorce process. It has the protections associated with a divorce in Missouri without ending the marriage. So, if the couple hopes of eventually reconciling, a legal separation is an appropriate option.
Because the couple remains married, only the legal separation ruling needs only to be dismissed.
No-Fault Missouri Divorce
Missouri is a ‘no-fault’ divorce state. This means that there is no need to give a reason why you are pursuing a divorce in Missouri. The fact you would like one is good enough.
During divorce process, one spouse will be required to testify to the fact that the marriage cannot be repaired. Once an order by the court dissolving the marriage is complete, you are free to act as a single person unless there was a successful appeal to the order.
Quick/DIY Missouri Divorce
Do-it-yourself divorce in Missouri is a popular option for some couples. It’s perfect for couples who want to end their marriage in a quick, easy, and affordable way. To be clear, this is not a classification of divorce, simply a common way of characterizing the process many couples take to dissolve their marriage.
If you and your spouse agree on how the divorce will go – including matters like property division, child custody, and support – you may be ideal for a do-it-yourself divorce. Do-it-yourself divorce in Missouri typically means you are going to obtain the necessary documents directly from the State of Missouri, complete the paperwork yourself, negotiate any financial or child custody issues between yourselves, and submit the paperwork to the Missouri Courts.
Another option that many couples choose is to hire an attorney on a limited basis for their divorce in Missouri to help with the clerical side of the process and general process advice. Many attorneys can be retained on a limited basis with uncontested divorces that won’t require a large amount of their time.
Even with a quick, DIY divorce, having the aid of someone who has been through it all before can be extremely helpful.
Under Missouri law, the statutory basis for a divorce is that there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and, therefore, the marriage is irretrievably broken. Regardless of whether you and your former spouse both agree on that, consulting an experienced divorce attorney can be beneficial.
The divorce process can be a straightforward one but can also be extremely difficult, depending on the number of disagreements and agreements between two parties in a split. If one spouse doesn’t agree on how to divide marital property or issues regarding their minor children, having an attorney by your side during a divorce in Missouri can be essential.
Missouri Divorce Laws
Speaking Legally: Missouri Divorce Law
Just as there are laws for marriage, there are laws for divorce. It’s true that you don’t need an attorney for a divorce, the State of Missouri provides all the necessary paperwork and instruction to file for a dissolution of marriage.
However, the State clearly explains that the materials they provide are for “uncontested matters without complex issues.” If you are set for a contested divorce, there are substantial asset divisions, complicated child custody issues or other complicating factors – you are better off seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney.
Here are some terms and sections of the law to know and how they could affect you:
Missouri Revised Statute 452.300
- The rules of the supreme court and other applicable court rules shall govern all proceedings pursuant to sections 452.300 to 452.415.
2. A proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity of marriage shall be entitled: “In re the Marriage of ______ and ______”.
3. The initial pleading in an original proceeding pursuant to sections 452.300 to 452.415 shall be denominated a “petition” and the responsive pleading in an original proceeding shall be denominated an “answer”. Other pleadings in an original proceeding and all pleadings in other proceedings pursuant to sections 452.300 to 452.415 shall be denominated as provided in the rules of the supreme court and other applicable court rules.
4. Any party who files the initial pleading in an original proceeding pursuant to sections 452.300 to 452.415 shall be denominated the “petitioner” and any party who is required to file or who files a responsive pleading in an original proceeding shall be denominated the “respondent”. Each party shall retain such denomination from the original proceeding in any other proceedings pursuant to sections 452.300 to 452.415.
5. An original proceeding pursuant to sections 452.300 to 452.415 shall be commenced in the county in which the petitioner resides or in the county in which the respondent resides. If an original proceeding is commenced in the county in which the petitioner resides, upon motion by the respondent filed prior to the filing of a responsive pleading, the court in which the proceeding is commenced may transfer the proceeding to the county in which the respondent resides if:
(1) The county in which the respondent resides had been the county in which the children resided during the ninety days immediately preceding the commencement of the proceeding; or
(2) The best interest of the children will be served if the proceeding is transferred to the county in which the respondent resides because:
(a) The children and at least one parent have a significant connection with the county; and
(b) There is substantial evidence concerning the present or future care, protection and personal relationships of the children in the county.
6. In proceedings pursuant to sections 452.300 to 452.415, “judgment” shall include a “decree”.
Missouri Revised Statute 452.415
When sections 452.300 to 452.415 shall apply. — 1. Sections 452.300 to 452.415 apply to all proceedings commenced on or after January 1, 1974.
2. Sections 452.300 to 452.415 apply to all pending actions and proceedings commenced prior to January 1, 1974, with respect to issues on which a judgment has not been entered. Pending actions for divorce or separation are deemed to have been commenced on the basis of irretrievable breakdown. Evidence adduced after January 1, 1974, shall be in compliance with sections 452.300 to 452.415.
3. Sections 452.300 to 452.415 apply to all proceedings commenced after January 1, 1974, for the modification of a judgment or order entered prior to January 1, 1974.
4. In any action or proceeding in which an appeal was pending or a new trial was ordered prior to January 1, 1974, the law in effect at the time of the order sustaining the appeal or the new trial governs the appeal, the new trial, and any subsequent trial or appeal.
(L. 1973 H.B. 315 § 24)
(1975) Where plaintiff filed divorce action in 1972, case was heard in 1973, statutes on dissolution of marriage became effective January 1, 1974, and no judgment had been entered on case pending; the issue for decision then became whether marriage was irretrievably broken and not whether plaintiff was entitled to a divorce for indignities. Bishop v. Bishop (A.), 521 S.W.2d 26.
Abandonment Laws in Missouri
Many people see abandonment as the only way out of their marriage. When one spouse leaves the other without consent, this is considered abandonment and it may be grounds for divorce in Missouri. Also, it is considered abandonment, or desertion, when the:
• Parties failed to agree about the departure.
• Defendant/respondent has been gone for six consecutive months.
• Plaintiff/petitioner failed to pay support to their spouse.
• The departure wasn’t caused by the other party
Alimony Laws in Missouri
The role of alimony is to provide a former spouse with material support if they lack the sufficient property to provide for their own needs or support himself or herself by appropriate employment following a dissolution. The Court can order a maintenance order to either spouse who is a party to a dissolution of marriage case.
Section Two further states that the order must consider factors, such as the:
• Age, physical and emotional condition, and financial background of the person requesting maintenance.
• The time necessary for them to complete job training or education.
• Couple’s standard of living during the marriage.
• Duration of the marriage.
• Conduct of both spouses during the marriage and divorce process.
Common Law in Missouri
Common law marriage, where a couple co-habits and presents to the community as married despite never having gone through a formal ceremony, is no longer recognized in Missouri. In fact, it was abolished in 1921. Today, couples must have the capacity (i.e. mentally, age, etc.) to choose to get married.
Legal Age of Marriage in Missouri
In Missouri, the legal age to marry is eighteen (18) unless the couple has parental consent from the minor’s guardians. Those wishing to get married under the age of fifteen must have approval from the circuit court where they wish to file for marriage.
Missouri Divorce Laws Can Be Confusing.
Save the headaches and let our team of expert help you. From a small advisory role to your ally along the way, we’re here to help in your time of need.
Divorces can be completed without the help of an attorney, but there are numerous benefits to consulting with one during your divorce process. Attorneys have done it all before and can expedite all part of the process to get you on to your next phase of life as soon as possible.
Additionally, they are experts in divorce law in Missouri and understand all the nuances that might become sticking points, especially if you’re former partner has hired counsel and the divorce could be acrimonious.
Divorce in Missouri Forms
Brief on Missouri Divorce Forms
The Missouri divorce forms needed are:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- Statement of Income and Expenses
- Statement of Property and Debt and the Proposed Separation Agreement
- Missouri Department of Health Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage
- Family Court Filing Certificate
- Judgment of Dissolution
- Parenting Plan
- Answer to the Petition of Dissolution
Dissolution of Marriage – Petitioner
The spouse who begins the divorce process is called the petitioner (the plaintiff). To do so, they must fill out a written petition, using the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, that summarizes what the case is about, who it’s against (the respondent), and the desired outcome.
Also, this petition may include requests for division of property, child custody, and support. Certain information may be required by law.
The petition must be verified by the court before it can be filed. Namely, the petitioner must confirm the truth of the facts in the petition and sign it in front of a notary.
Missouri Divorce Forms you MUST complete:
1. Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (CAFC001)
2. Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage
3. Statement of Income and Expenses (CAFC050)
4. Statement of Property and Debt and Proposed Separation Agreement (CAFC040)
5. Respondent’s Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (CAFC010-R)
6. Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage (CAFC070)
7. Filing Information Sheet
8. Parenting Plan (CAFC501)
- Fillable PDF to Download
- Blank PDF to Print
- Form 14 (If you need additional copies)
- Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations
- Directions, Comments for Use and Examples for Completion of Form 14
9. Notice of Hearing (CAFC721)
Dissolution of Marriage – Respondent
The spouse on the receiving end of the petition for dissolution of marriage is called the respondent (defendant). When they are served a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the respondent has thirty days to protect his or her interests by responding.
A spouse (respondent) might refuse to acknowledge the divorce papers for many reasons, including the erroneous thought that doing so will block the proceedings. In Missouri, this isn’t the case. In fact, ignoring the Petition may have unfavorable consequences.
During the thirty-day period, the respondent must file an answer in court if he objects to the spouse’s requests for custody, property, support, and so on. This response will let the court know he’s actively involved in the proceedings.
Otherwise, the court will assume the respondent agrees with the petitioner’s requests and has no legal obligation to include them in the rest of the proceedings.
Missouri Respondent Divorce Forms you MUST complete:
1. Respondent’s Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (CAFC010-R)
2. Statement of Income and Expenses (CAFC050-R)
3. Statement of Property and Debt and Proposed Separation Agreement (CAFC040-R)
4. Parenting Plan (CAFC501)
Have an Attorney File the Forms For You.
One of the most compelling benefits of hiring a divorce lawyer like Summer Masterson-Goethals is that they will take care of all hassle of paperwork and filing on your behalf. They’ve done this before many times and know how the system works.
The Cost of Divorce in Missouri
Cost of Contested vs. Uncontested in Missouri
No matter what type of divorce you and your spouse choose, you’ll have to pay court costs, including filing fees and attorney’s fees. The average cost of Missouri’s filing fee is $163, but they can be more depending on the county of residence.
Generally, it’s most expensive to get a contested divorce. In the case of a contested divorce, attorneys will require a retainer fee prior to the proceedings. This will pay for some of the work the attorney and their staff will have to do at around $200 per hour.
Therefore, an uncontested divorce costs significantly less than a contested divorce.
Average Cost of Divorce in Missouri
The average cost of divorce in Missouri will depend on a few factors including:
- Contested vs. Uncontested.
- If you hire an attorney.
- State of Missouri Filing Fees.
- Sheriffs’ Fees for Serving Spouse.
- Living in a Missouri County that Requires a Court Appearance for Finalization.
- Real Estate Appraisal/Other Asset Assessment Fees
In a nutshell, the more complicated your divorce is, the more expensive it will be. The process can be completed for a few hundred dollars or it may require thousands, depending on your situation. So, it’s difficult to say accurately what the ‘average’ divorce costs.
A contested divorce that requires the assistance of attorneys to obtain a resolution will depend on that attorney’s hourly rate or price structure. It’s not uncommon for a divorce attorney in Missouri to carry an hourly rate of in the range of $200-500 per hour. Of course, this depends on the attorney and will be something you’ll want to discuss in the beginning. Some attorneys offer flat fees as well. The longer it takes to obtain a resolution, the more you are likely to pay.
Additionally, you may need to bring in the assistance of property appraisal experts, or additional experts to help you determine asset value if that is an issue in your dissolution.
An uncontested divorce where the spouses hire attorneys will still cost money, but far less than if there are multiple contested issues on the table. Think about the cost a byproduct of time: the more time it takes for an attorney, the more expensive it is.
If you don’t require an attorney, such as with an uncontested divorce with a minimal number of issues of disagreement, you’re likely to spend far less. In this case, you will still be required to pay the State of Missouri filing fees. On average, these are around $163 in most Missouri Counties but can vary.
Asset Division and Divorce in Missouri
Missouri is an equitable distribution state. This means that, when it comes to dividing property, the court will split it fairly. The division doesn’t necessarily have to be fair to be considered equal, though.
One of the most assets discussed in this portion of a divorce is a house or other real estate holdings, but that’s not the only place assets are defined. This extends to other financial assets such as a
- Bank Accounts
- Investment Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
- Deferred Compensation from an Employer
- Debt Repayment
- Credit Card assets like Airline Miles or Points,
- Vehicles including RVs and Boats
- Collections of Artwork or Antiques
- Household Goods and Furnishings
- Insurance Policies
For a number of these assets, it’s pretty simple to determine the value by simply looking at the account total. However, other assets are more abstract in value and may require the assistance of an accountant or specialist like a real estate appraiser.
Alimony Costs and Divorce in Missouri
In Missouri, one of the spouses may receive financial support from the other, known as maintenance or alimony. A judge will order alimony when one spouse can’t maintain living expenses, such as if they’re disabled or have a disadvantage in education.
Alimony is to assure that both spouses maintain a standard of living close to the one they had established during their marriage.
Attorney Costs and Divorce in Missouri
In Missouri, some attorneys will charge clients a flat fee for an uncontested divorce, but it really depends on the attorney. There is a wide-spectrum of divorce attorneys in Missouri and there fees range from reasonable to high.
The amount of your retainer will depend on how complicated your divorce is, especially if it’s contested. As we previously discussed, the longer and more complicated a divorce is, the more expensive it will likely be.
Even though it can feel daunting to worry about these financial calculations at such a stressful time, don’t be afraid to call a few attorneys and speak with them directly about your situation and potential fees. They almost always offer a initial consultation, where they will give you an idea of the type of process and fees you can expect.
Children and Divorce in Missouri
Child Custody and Divorce in Missouri
Like most states, Missouri considers the children’s best interests when it comes to child custody during a divorce in Missouri. Several factors are looked at before determining custody:
• Each parents’ wishes for their child and parenting methods.
• Child’s need to maintain relationships with both parents.
• Child’s own wishes.
• Any relocation plans.
• The mental and physical well-being of the parents.
• Any history of abuse or neglect.
A parent may gain physical custody of the child where they provide daily care or legal custody where they may make decisions on the child’s schooling, religion, or medical care.
In a divorce in Missouri, a court can determine custody based on five custody arrangements:
1. Joint custody (co-parenting).
2. Joint custody to both parents and legal custody to one.
3. Joint legal custody to both parents and physical custody to one.
4. Sole custody to one parent.
5. Custody or visitation by third parties (such as grandparents).
In these situations, it’s advisable to speak with a family lawyer about your situation.
Child Support and Divorce in Missouri
Child support is money that one or both parents are ordered to pay monthly to be put toward raising the child. When a judge orders support to be paid after divorce proceedings, the amount received will depend on the following factors:
• The number of children and the costs of child care and health insurance.
• The gross income of each parent.
• If one parent is receiving alimony.
• The amount of time the children spend overnight with each parent during the year.
This can get complicated quickly, and speaking with a divorce attorney Springfield MO about your situation can be very helpful.
Missouri Revised Statute 452.340
452.340. Child support, how allocated — factors to be considered — abatement or termination of support, when — support after age eighteen, when — public policy of state — payments may be made directly to child, when — child support guidelines, rebuttable presumption, use of guidelines, when — retroactivity — obligation terminated, how. — 1. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or child support, the court may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child of the marriage to pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the support of the child, including an award retroactive to the date of filing the petition, without regard to marital misconduct, after considering all relevant factors including:
(1) The financial needs and resources of the child;
(2) The financial resources and needs of the parents;
(3) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
(4) The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child’s educational needs;
(5) The child’s physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time the child spends with each parent and the reasonable expenses associated with the custody or visitation arrangements; and
(6) The reasonable work-related child care expenses of each parent.
2. The obligation of the parent ordered to make support payments shall abate, in whole or in part, for such periods of time in excess of thirty consecutive days that the other parent has voluntarily relinquished physical custody of a child to the parent ordered to pay child support, notwithstanding any periods of visitation or temporary physical and legal or physical or legal custody pursuant to a judgment of dissolution or legal separation or any modification thereof. In a IV-D case, the family support division may determine the amount of the abatement pursuant to this subsection for any child support order and shall record the amount of abatement in the automated child support system record established pursuant to chapter 454. If the case is not a IV-D case and upon court order, the circuit clerk shall record the amount of abatement in the automated child support system record established in chapter 454.
3. Unless the circumstances of the child manifestly dictate otherwise and the court specifically so provides, the obligation of a parent to make child support payments shall terminate when the child:
(3) Enters active duty in the military;
(4) Becomes self-supporting, provided that the custodial parent has relinquished the child from parental control by express or implied consent;
(5) Reaches age eighteen, unless the provisions of subsection 4 or 5 of this section apply; or
(6) Reaches age twenty-one, unless the provisions of the child support order specifically extend the parental support order past the child’s twenty-first birthday for reasons provided by subsection 4 of this section.
4. If the child is physically or mentally incapacitated from supporting himself and insolvent and unmarried, the court may extend the parental support obligation past the child’s eighteenth birthday.
5. If when a child reaches age eighteen, the child is enrolled in and attending a secondary school program of instruction, the parental support obligation shall continue, if the child continues to attend and progresses toward completion of said program, until the child completes such program or reaches age twenty-one, whichever first occurs. If the child is enrolled in an institution of vocational or higher education not later than October first following graduation from a secondary school or completion of a graduation equivalence degree program and so long as the child enrolls for and completes at least twelve hours of credit each semester, not including the summer semester, at an institution of vocational or higher education and achieves grades sufficient to reenroll at such institution, the parental support obligation shall continue until the child completes his or her education, or until the child reaches the age of twenty-one, whichever first occurs. To remain eligible for such continued parental support, at the beginning of each semester the child shall submit to each parent a transcript or similar official document provided by the institution of vocational or higher education which includes the courses the child is enrolled in and has completed for each term, the grades and credits received for each such course, and an official document from the institution listing the courses which the child is enrolled in for the upcoming term and the number of credits for each such course. When enrolled in at least twelve credit hours, if the child receives failing grades in half or more of his or her courseload in any one semester, payment of child support may be terminated and shall not be eligible for reinstatement. Upon request for notification of the child’s grades by the noncustodial parent, the child shall produce the required documents to the noncustodial parent within thirty days of receipt of grades from the education institution. If the child fails to produce the required documents, payment of child support may terminate without the accrual of any child support arrearage and shall not be eligible for reinstatement. If the circumstances of the child manifestly dictate, the court may waive the October first deadline for enrollment required by this subsection. If the child is enrolled in such an institution, the child or parent obligated to pay support may petition the court to amend the order to direct the obligated parent to make the payments directly to the child. As used in this section, an “institution of vocational education” means any postsecondary training or schooling for which the student is assessed a fee and attends classes regularly. “Higher education” means any community college, college, or university at which the child attends classes regularly. A child who has been diagnosed with a developmental disability, as defined in section 630.005, or whose physical disability or diagnosed health problem limits the child’s ability to carry the number of credit hours prescribed in this subsection, shall remain eligible for child support so long as such child is enrolled in and attending an institution of vocational or higher education, and the child continues to meet the other requirements of this subsection. A child who is employed at least fifteen hours per week during the semester may take as few as nine credit hours per semester and remain eligible for child support so long as all other requirements of this subsection are complied with.
6. The court shall consider ordering a parent to waive the right to claim the tax dependency exemption for a child enrolled in an institution of vocational or higher education in favor of the other parent if the application of state and federal tax laws and eligibility for financial aid will make an award of the exemption to the other parent-appropriate.
7. The general assembly finds and declares that it is the public policy of this state that frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage is in the best interest of the child except for cases where the court specifically finds that such contact is not in the best interest of the child. In order to effectuate this public policy, a court with jurisdiction shall enforce visitation, custody and child support orders in the same manner. A court with jurisdiction may abate, in whole or in part, any past or future obligation of support and may transfer the physical and legal or physical or legal custody of one or more children if it finds that a parent has, without good cause, failed to provide visitation or physical and legal or physical or legal custody to the other parent pursuant to the terms of a judgment of dissolution, legal separation or modifications thereof. The court shall also award, if requested and for good cause shown, reasonable expenses, attorney’s fees and court costs incurred by the prevailing party.
8. The Missouri supreme court shall have in effect a rule establishing guidelines by which any award of child support shall be made in any judicial or administrative proceeding. Said guidelines shall contain specific, descriptive and numeric criteria which will result in a computation of the support obligation. The guidelines shall address how the amount of child support shall be calculated when an award of joint physical custody results in the child or children spending equal or substantially equal time with both parents and the directions and comments and any tabular representations of the directions and comments for completion of the child support guidelines and a subsequent form developed to reflect the guidelines shall reflect the ability to obtain up to a fifty percent adjustment or credit below the basic child support amount for joint physical custody or visitation as described in subsection 11 of this section. The Missouri supreme court shall publish child support guidelines and specifically list and explain the relevant factors and assumptions that were used to calculate the child support guidelines. Any rule made pursuant to this subsection shall be reviewed by the promulgating body not less than once every four years to ensure that its application results in the determination of appropriate child support award amounts.
9. There shall be a rebuttable presumption, in any judicial or administrative proceeding for the award of child support, that the amount of the award which would result from the application of the guidelines established pursuant to subsection 8 of this section is the correct amount of child support to be awarded. A written finding or specific finding on the record in a judicial or administrative proceeding that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case, after considering all relevant factors, including the factors set out in subsection 1 of this section, shall be required and shall be sufficient to rebut the presumption in the case. The written finding or specific finding on the record shall detail the specific relevant factors that required a deviation from the application of the guidelines.
10. Pursuant to this or any other chapter, when a court determines the amount owed by a parent for support provided to a child by another person, other than a parent, prior to the date of filing of a petition requesting support, or when the director of the family support division establishes the amount of state debt due pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection 1 of section 454.465, the court or director shall use the guidelines established pursuant to subsection 8 of this section. The amount of child support resulting from the application of the guidelines shall be applied retroactively for a period prior to the establishment of a support order and the length of the period of retroactivity shall be left to the discretion of the court or director. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the amount resulting from application of the guidelines under subsection 8 of this section constitutes the amount owed by the parent for the period prior to the date of the filing of the petition for support or the period for which state debt is being established. In applying the guidelines to determine a retroactive support amount, when information as to average monthly income is available, the court or director may use the average monthly income of the noncustodial parent, as averaged over the period of retroactivity, in determining the amount of presumed child support owed for the period of retroactivity. The court or director may enter a different amount in a particular case upon finding, after consideration of all relevant factors, including the factors set out in subsection 1 of this section, that there is sufficient cause to rebut the presumed amount.
11. The court may award child support in an amount that provides up to a fifty percent adjustment below the basic child support amount authorized by the child support guidelines described under subsection 8 of this section for custody awards of joint physical custody where the child or children spend equal or substantially equal time with both parents.
12. The obligation of a parent to make child support payments may be terminated as follows:
(1) Provided that the state case registry or child support order contains the child’s date of birth, the obligation shall be deemed terminated without further judicial or administrative process when the child reaches age twenty-one if the child support order does not specifically require payment of child support beyond age twenty-one for reasons provided by subsection 4 of this section;
(2) The obligation shall be deemed terminated without further judicial or administrative process when the parent receiving child support furnishes a sworn statement or affidavit notifying the obligor parent of the child’s emancipation in accordance with the requirements of subsection 4 of section 452.370, and a copy of such sworn statement or affidavit is filed with the court which entered the order establishing the child support obligation, or the family support division for an order entered under section 454.470;
(3) The obligation shall be deemed terminated without further judicial or administrative process when the parent paying child support files a sworn statement or affidavit with the court which entered the order establishing the child support obligation, or the family support division for an order entered under section 454.470, stating that the child is emancipated and reciting the factual basis for such statement; which statement or affidavit is served by the court or division, as applicable, on the child support obligee; and which is either acknowledged and affirmed by the child support obligee in writing, or which is not responded to in writing within thirty days of receipt by the child support obligee;
(4) The obligation shall be terminated as provided by this subdivision by the court which entered the order establishing the child support obligation, or the family support division for an order entered under section 454.470, when the parent paying child support files a sworn statement or affidavit with the court which entered the order establishing the child support obligation, or the family support division, as applicable, stating that the child is emancipated and reciting the factual basis for such statement; and which statement or affidavit is served by the court or division, as applicable, on the child support obligee. If the obligee denies the statement or affidavit, the court or division shall thereupon treat the sworn statement or affidavit as a request for hearing and shall proceed to hear and adjudicate such request for hearing as provided by law; provided that the court may require the payment of a deposit as security for court costs and any accrued court costs, as provided by law, in relation to such request for hearing. When the division receives a request for hearing, the hearing shall be held in the manner provided by section 454.475.
13. The court may enter a judgment terminating child support pursuant to subdivisions (1) to (3) of subsection 12 of this section without necessity of a court appearance by either party. The clerk of the court shall mail a copy of a judgment terminating child support entered pursuant to subsection 12 of this section on both the obligor and obligee parents. The supreme court may promulgate uniform forms for sworn statements and affidavits to terminate orders of child support obligations for use pursuant to subsection 12 of this section and subsection 4 of section 452.370.
Father’s Rights and Divorce in Missouri
While mothers are traditionally viewed as the caregivers, Missouri judges aren’t to give preference to one parent over the other. Therefore, a mother’s rights are the same as a father’s rights. Fathers may petition the court for support and custody of their children just as a mother can.
Regardless, if the custody situation is contentious, it’s important to speak with a qualified family lawyer about your situation.
Mother’s Rights and Divorce in Missouri
If a child is born to an unmarried woman, the man would be considered the “putative father,” which means that no legal relationship has been established between him and the child. A family lawyer can help you navigate through complicated issues like this.
To gain the same rights as the child’s mother, he must establish parenthood by signing an affidavit acknowledging the child as his own or submit to a paternity test.
Parenting and Divorce in Missouri
Part of any divorce in Missouri with children is the submission of a Parenting Plan. Generally speaking, this will discuss how you plan to look after the children after a marriage has been dissolved. A family lawyer, with experience involving child custody issues can be a great asset during this difficult time.
HB1550 is Missouri’s new bill that’s making shared parenting the norm. It maximizes to the time children spend with their parents, requires the court to explain how they determined custody arrangements, and keeps local courts from making their own rules.
Custody arrangements can be tricky, especially if there is an acrimonious divorce happening between the spouses, but it’s important to set these provisions up early and clearly, for the best interests’ of the children. Working with an attorney or mediator can help find a reasonable accommodation for all parties, so everyone can contribute to the upbringing of the children in question.
Legal Questions about Divorce in Missouri
Adultery and Divorce in Missouri
When one spouse cheats, it, unfortunately, doesn’t have much impact on the distribution of assets or the divorce proceedings.
Annulment and Divorce in Missouri
Unlike a divorce, annulment is a way to invalidate the marriage, as if it never existed.
The process to obtain an annulment in Missouri is not easy, but it is possible. An interesting related provision allows couples to obtain a divorce annulment, which makes the divorce ‘disappear’ in the eyes of the law – establishing the marriage again.
If you are pursuing an annulment in Missouri, there are only a few legal grounds to make that happen:
- Underage. If the marriage happened without written consent from the parent, guardian or court.
- Familial relation
- Lack of capacity on account of mental incompetence, senility or impotence
- Common law marriage
- Duress or fraud
Missouri Revised Statutes 451.020 – Certain Marriages Prohibited
All marriages between parents and children, including grandparents and grandchildren of every degree, between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood, between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, first cousins, and between persons who lack capacity to enter into a marriage contract, are presumptively void; and it shall be unlawful for any city, county or state official having authority to issue marriage licenses to issue such marriage licenses to the persons heretofore designated, and any such official who shall issue such licenses to the persons aforesaid knowing such persons to be within the prohibition of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor; and this prohibition shall apply to persons born out of lawful wedlock as well as those in lawful wedlock. It shall be presumed that marriages between persons who lack capacity to enter into a marriage contract are prohibited unless the court having jurisdiction over such persons approves the marriage.
Missouri Revised Statutes 451.030 – Bigamous Marriage Void
All marriages, where either of the parties has a former wife or husband living, shall be void, unless the former marriage shall have been dissolved.
Legal Aid/Pro Bono and Divorce in Missouri
“Legal Aid” known as Missouri Legal Services provides free civil legal assistance to low-income people. Summer Masterson-Goethals is a graduate of Legal Services of Southern Missouri, where she obtained invaluable experience.
If you do not possess the means to speak with a paid attorney and are feeling overwhelmed by a divorce in Missouri, Legal Services is a great option to begin receiving guidance. There are six Legal Services offices across the State of Missouri:
LSSM – Springfield Office
809 N. Campbell Avenue Springfield, MO
County Coverage: Barry, Carter, Cedar, Christian, Dade, Dallas, Douglas, Greene, Howell, Laclede, Lawrence, Oregon, Ozark, Polk, Shannon, Stone, Taney, Webster, and Wright.
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM)
4232 Park Forest Avenue St. Louis, MO 63108
County Coverage: Adair, Clark, Franklin, Jefferson, Knox, Lewis, Lincoln, Macon, Marion, Monroe, Montgomery, Pike, Ralls, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, St. Charles, St. Louis City, Warren, and Washington.
Legal Aid of Western Missouri (LAWMO)
4001 Blue Parkway Suite 300 Kansas City, MO 64130
County Coverage: Andrew, Atchison, Barton, Bates, Benton, Buchanan, Caldwell, Camden, Carroll, Cass, Clay, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy , Harrison, Henry, Holt, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Lafayette, Linn , Livingstone, McDonald, Mercer, Morgan, Newton, Nodaway, Pettis, Platte, Putnam, Ray, Saline, St. Clair, Vernon, and Worth.
Mid-Missouri Legal Services (MMLS)
1201 West Broadway Columbia, MO 65203
County Coverage: Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Chariton, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Miller, Moniteau, Osage, and Randolph.
LSSM – Charleston Office
116 N. Main Street Charleston, MO 63834
County Coverage: Bollinger, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Ripley, Scott, and Stoddard.
LSSM – Rolla Office
1000 N. Pine, Ste. B, Rolla, MO 65401
County Coverage: Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Iron, Madison, Maries, Phelps, Pulaski, Reynolds, St. Francois, St. Genevieve, Texas, and Wayne.
Some law firms and attorneys offer to take divorce in Missouri cases on a pro bono basis, meaning free of charge. This of course depends on the firm/attorney.
Mediation and Divorce in Missouri
A process in which a neutral third party facilitates communications between two parties. Sometimes, the court will appoint a mediator for divorcing couples. Summer Masterson-Goethals is a certified dispute resolution specialist and routinely helps couples in the area of divorce in Missouri.
Mediation is a course of action that can be less expansive than hiring attorneys to work through issues like asset division or child custody arrangements. This might be an ideal part of your divorce in Missouri, particularly in an uncontested situation.
Name Change and Divorce in Missouri
When filing the petition for divorce or responding to it, you can request a name change. If there are no issues that surface, the court will include the name change in the final decree of divorce.
Your Legal Questions about Divorce in Missouri Answered.
Masterson Law is a consumer and family law firm in Springfield, Missouri with years of experience successfully helping individuals make their way through divorces.