An Overview of Online Divorce, Missouri

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Summer Masterson-Goethals

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

Summer Masterson Goethals

What Is an Online Divorce?

Divorces are usually long, tedious, and expensive affairs where a single spouse or both spouses seek to end their marriage in court. Apart from the emotional difficulty that the parties may face, there is also the apprehension that the divorce process could cost a lot of money in attorney fees and other legal costs. 

In such cases, the parties may wish to find a cheaper alternative that gives them the same results – a dissolution of their marriage, which is where the demand for an online divorce comes in.

Getting a divorce online is simply the process of preparing a divorce petition/documentation using digital tools provided by online divorce service providers. It could be useful if you’re going through an uncomplicated divorce or trying to reduce the expenses associated with divorce proceedings.

However, an online divorce may only be appropriate for some divorce cases. Please keep reading to gain more insight into how online divorce works, when to use an online divorce service, and the legality of its usage under Missouri law.

How Online Divorce Works

The idea of online divorces is becoming increasingly common across the US. However, unlike the name implies, online divorce doesn’t mean that the divorce process is concluded online.

divorce in Missouri is processed and finalized in family court. Online divorce only helps parties who have opted to handle the divorce process on their own without the help of an attorney to prepare their divorce papers.

Once the petition is ready, they’ll need to file it in their local court and pay the required filing fee to kickstart the divorce process.

So while Missouri law does not prevent using an online divorce service to prepare divorce documentation, the documents generated online have to satisfy the requirements for a divorce petition under Missouri law.

Legal Requirements for an Online Divorce Petition Under Missouri Law

Under Missouri law, a divorce petition should contain a statement alleging that the marriage has broken down and can’t be preserved.

The petition should also state the following:

  • The residential address of each party within Missouri and how long they have lived in the county of residence

  • The date and place where the marriage was registered

  • The date on which the couple separated

  • The name, age, and place of residence of each child and the parent they’ve lived within the last sixty days before the petition is filed

  • Whether the wife is currently pregnant

  • The Social Security number of the spouses and each child

  • Any plans as to child custody, child support, and maintenance of each party

  • The relief sought from the court.

So, before you file your online divorce process in Missouri, you need to ensure that the above details are provided and that your petition complies with all other requirements of Missouri law. Otherwise, your petition might be rejected for non-compliance.

When You Can File an Online Divorce

Online divorce papers are only appropriate for some divorce cases. You can file online divorce papers in Missouri if the following conditions are met:

You Intend to Represent Yourself

If you’re getting divorced, you have the right to represent yourself in court. This means you get to navigate the entire divorce process and prepare the uncontested divorce forms yourself.

An online divorce service can help you with the document preparation aspect. However, to be sure that you understand the extent and implications of self-representation, you’re also required to complete a Litigant Awareness Program. It is a two-step process that involves watching an educational video on divorce, after which you’ll get a certificate of completion. The certificate would accompany your petition as you file it in court.

The purpose of the litigant awareness program is to familiarize you with Missouri court processes. You will also learn about the Missouri divorce process and the risks of choosing to represent yourself in a Missouri court.

 

The Divorce Is Uncontested

You can only use an online divorce service if the divorce is uncontested or non-contentious. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Such divorces are easier and quicker to conclude, especially when the parties agree on other important issues such as alimony, marital property division, and child-related issues.

However, any disagreement between the parties could complicate the process. An online divorce would be inappropriate in such cases. So if your separation from your spouse was less than amicable, an online divorce might not be suitable since your divorce case would likely be contentious.

An experienced divorce attorney might serve your purposes better in such cases.

Can I Get a Copy of the Divorce Decree Online?

If the divorce process is successful, the judge will make an order to dissolve your marriage at the end of the hearing. The terms of the judge’s order are contained in a document known as a divorce decree.

The divorce decree is signed by the divorce judge and is evidence that shows that your marriage has been officially terminated. So you need to keep a copy of the decree for record purposes.

You can get the official document from the circuit clerk’s office in the county where the court granted the divorce. However, if getting to the clerk’s office proves difficult, you can also get a copy of the record online from the Department of Health and Senior Services website. The department keeps Missouri divorce records and can issue a ‘Certified Statement Relating to Divorce’ to you upon payment of a fee.

Note that this certificate is not the same as the divorce decree. It only contains; the names of the spouses, the date of the divorce, and the county where the divorce was finalized. This could be useful when you need to urgently establish the fact of your divorce. But if you’re required to provide the divorce decree, you’d have to contact the circuit clerk in the county where the divorce was concluded.

Do I Need a Divorce Attorney or an Online Divorce Service?

The major advantage of a Missouri online divorce is its ease and relative affordability. For most people, online divorce is less expensive than hiring a divorce attorney. While this may be true in other states, the divorce procedure in Missouri requires you to complete the divorce process in court. Unlike an online divorce service, a divorce attorney offers much more than document preparation services.

If you choose to hire an attorney, they can navigate the entire court process on your behalf, and in many cases, all you need to do is attend court hearings, which is obviously less stressful than filing documents and navigating the system on your own.

Also, online divorce services often do not take the specific requirements of divorce papers in each state into account. Divorce paperwork in Missouri must meet the requirements of Missouri law, and any mistakes might result in a rejection. This means that you have to initiate the process all over again. However, having an experienced Missouri divorce attorney represent you reduce the likelihood of any errors in your divorce petition. 

Having an attorney represent you even where you’re getting an uncontested divorce in Missouri gives you extra assurance that your divorce will proceed seamlessly, all things being equal.

Should you have any further questions about the divorce in Missouri, disadvantages of legal separation, how to proceed with a contested divorce or you would like to know “how do assets get divided in a divorce?”, you can contact us at Masterson Law.

Our experienced divorce attorneys can answer your questions and provide legal solutions based on your unique circumstances.

You can book an appointment with us today to get started.