Divorce is always difficult and often wrought with arguing and bitterness. In other situations, both parties agree that a divorce is what they need. They want their divorce lawyer to help them to remain on good terms after the divorce is final. They want to go forward amicably, often with a goal toward co-parenting the children without animosity.
They look for a process that will end their marriage but will preserve their dignity and ability to work together. An uncontested divorce can provide them the closure they need for their marriage while allowing them to go forward without the anger and hostility that is often generated during the litigation process.
What are the Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce in Missouri?
The uncontested divorce begins by one spouse filing a petition for a divorce in the circuit court of the county in which they live. At least one party must have lived in the state of Missouri for at least 90 days prior to the filing of the petition. The paperwork requires a party to sign, under oath, that they meet this residency requirement. It is a state law, and the court may require proof of residency. Falsely attesting to being a resident for 90 days is perjury.
An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree a divorce is in their best interest and they also both agree on the resolution of all issues of the case. This includes property division, allocation of debt, custody of the children and visitation (referred to as parenting time in Missouri), child support, and alimony.
If the couple has any area of disagreement, then the divorce is contested. Litigation will proceed, the case will be set for trial, and the time it will take for the final court decision and the final order of dissolution to be issued will depend on how many areas of disagreement the couple has, how many court hearings are required, and the time available on the court calendar for the required hearings.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Missouri?
An uncontested divorce can be final in as few as 30 days if the couple files a joint petition for dissolution. There is a 30-day waiting period following the filing of the joint petition before the court can issue its final order of dissolution. Depending on the workload of the court and the backlog of the court calendar, it may take longer.
Generally, one party files a Petition for Dissolution and the other party has 30 days to answer. If the answering party agrees that the divorce is not contested, there is still a 30-day waiting period before the court will issue its final Certificate of Dissolution. This may take longer if the court has a heavy workload.
How do I File For an Uncontested Divorce in Missouri?
An uncontested divorce begins with one party filing a petition for dissolution in the family law division of the circuit court in their county. The family law court will provide you the forms you need to file with the court. It is important to note that the court clerk may only assist you with technical issues like where to sign your name. Court clerks may not give any legal advice. If they even try, they will lose their jobs.
There are a number of requirements you must meet if you want to represent yourself even if the representation is for an uncontested divorce. Before you even begin, you must complete a program that makes sure you understand the legal process.
You must complete a two-step Litigation Awareness Program. Before representing yourself, you must take this course and file your certification of completion with the court. The course is designed to make sure you understand the legal process and the pitfalls you may encounter as a result of representing yourself.
The course makes sure you understand the role of the court clerk and how the clerks can and cannot help you. For example, you will learn:
Court staff may:
- Answer questions about how the court works.
- Give you general information about court rules, procedures, and practices.
- Provide court schedules and information about how to set a case scheduled for a hearing.
- Provide you with court forms and instructions that are available. They may read through the directions with you, but they cannot provide you any more details. If your question is not answered by the instructions, a court clerk cannot interpret the instructions for you.
Court staff MAY NOT:
Give you any legal advice. They cannot tell you how to fill out your court papers or what terminology you should use. They cannot offer any opinion about what you should say in court or what they predict the outcome of your case will be.
The most they can do is check your paperwork to see if you have completely filled in all the blanks. For example, they can tell you if a signature is missing or if you need a document notarized but they will not tell you to revise what you wrote.
They will never talk to the judge for you or arrange for you to talk to a judge outside of the courtroom.
Documents that must be filed. There are specific documents you must file with the court. An overview of the documents that must be filed includes:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This must name the other party who is the respondent, and state the grounds for divorce. In Missouri, the most common ground for divorce is simply that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and that there is “no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” The petition must be verified, which means the petitioning party must sign the petition under oath, swearing that everything said in the petition is true. The document must be notarized before the court will accept it for filing.
- Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage. This document is issued at the end of the process to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to prove the marriage has ended.
- Statement of Income and Expenses. This must include all income from all sources. It must also include a list of all savings accounts and retirement plans.
- Statement of Property and Debt and proposed Settlement Agreement. The instructions inform you that this document is a public record that is accessible by anyone. You need to be very careful in filling out this form and providing the requested information so that you give the court the required information without providing enough information for an identity thief to discover pertinent private information that could enable the thief to steal your identity.
- Respondent’s Response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The response must also be verified, signed under oath and notarized.
- Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
- Filing Information Sheet.
- Parenting Plan. This establishes a schedule for children to spend time with the parents, how custody will be handled, and how the parents will allocate payment for the children’s expenses. It also must include how health care will be handled, who is responsible for the children’s health insurance, how decisions will be made for the children, and how tax deductions will work. This will identify which parent claims the children as dependents and how child tax credits are dealt with. The parenting plan also establishes child support arrangements. The instructions for filling out this form are 14 pages long.
Why Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer for Your Uncontested Divorce?
The forms that must be filled out for an uncontested divorce are lengthy and very detailed. You must follow the directions exactly. Any slip-up may result in the forms being returned to you so you can start the process all over again. This can definitely delay the process and the quick divorce you planned on by doing it yourself simply won’t happen.
If there are mistakes, and the forms are not returned to you for correction, the judge may call one or both of you in to ask you questions so you can address the problems. If you made serious mistakes, they could impact the uncontested divorce process in a negative way.
Additionally, you must file your papers in the proper court. If filed in the wrong court, the petition will be dismissed, and you will have to start over again and file your petition in the proper court.
An attorney will also know how to file the necessary court documents while preserving your privacy. You do not want your bank account numbers or address of where your children will be on what days and time be available for public review.
Affordable Legal Services Provides the Best Possible Divorce Representation in Missouri
At Affordable Legal Services, we represent only one party even in an uncontested divorce. We generally represent the petitioner. If you have retained us as your divorce lawyer to pursue your uncontested divorce, we will first ask you to fill out a questionnaire. When you return it to us, we can then prepare all the legal documents you will need. You will then review them to be sure we have accurately represented your wishes. If not, we will edit them for no extra charge to be sure all representations are accurate. When they are complete, we will file them with the court.
Your spouse will have 30 days to respond. For your uncontested divorce, it is expected that you will both be in agreement and we will prepare the other documents necessary for the divorce to proceed uncontested.
Talk to an experienced Missouri attorney about your legal needs today. To do that, simply call our offices directly, email us, or use the box on the right-hand side of this page to send us a message. We represent clients throughout the entire state of Missouri.
We will work with you to have your uncontested divorce move as quickly through the court system as possible.
* The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Neither the Supreme Court of Missouri nor The Missouri Bar reviews or approves certifying organizations or specialist designations. Certain cases may be referred, or may involve outside co-counsel arrangements, in which event you would be notified.