Making the decision to file for divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, can be one of the hardest decisions in a person’s life. Before you file for divorce in the state of Missouri, there are some things you should know and ways to prepare, to help make the process easier. In a divorce, the party who files is referred to as the Petitioner, and their spouse is the Respondent. This article takes a look at some steps you can take before you file, to help your divorce go as smoothly as possible, as well as help you to protect your rights and assets as you move forward with this life-changing event.
Contested Or Uncontested
Determining if your divorce will be contested or uncontested is very helpful before you actually file your petition for dissolution of marriage. An uncontested divorce means there are no disputes on certain marital elements such as property division, maintenance, child support, or child custody. In other words, all you need to do is complete the appropriate filings and documentation. When the proper documentation and filing procedures have been completed, the dissolution can move forward and presumably be granted by the judge.
If you and your spouse have not reached agreements on the marital elements, then your case would be filed as a contested divorce and the court will be required to make the decisions regarding the outcome of your divorce. In either situation, and especially if you have children, it is recommended that you speak with a qualified family law attorney to discuss your particular situation and determine the best way to proceed.
Meet Missouri’s Requirements
There are certain prerequisites that must be met to be eligible to file for divorce in a Missouri court.
Residency – Either the Petitioner or Respondent must be a resident of the State of Missouri for at least 90 days prior to filing the Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage in the Circuit Court of the Missouri county where you or your spouse resides. If neither you nor your spouse are legal residents of Missouri, you will have to be become a resident and wait at least 90 days to file. If you or your spouse is an active-duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces and have been stationed in Missouri for at least 90 days, you are eligible to file for divorce here.
Pregnancy – A divorce petition in Missouri must state whether or not the wife is pregnant at the time the petition is filed. If the Petitioner or Respondent is pregnant, the petition can be filed, but the court will not grant the divorce until after the baby has been born and paternity has been established.
Marriage Is Irretrievably Broken – Missouri is a ‘no-fault’ state, meaning that a person can file for divorce without having to prove that their spouse did anything wrong. If the Petitioner believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that divorce is the only option, the case can proceed regardless of the actions or the desires of the other party. That is not to say that you and your spouse’s conduct will not play a factor whatsoever in the proceedings, as some behavior can be relevant to specific parts of a divorce case, such as property division and spousal maintenance. You can understand whether fault should be considered in your divorce case by speaking with an attorney who is familiar with Missouri law and the family court system.
If you are considering filing for divorce, you should start to gather documentation pertaining to both your and your spouse’s incomes, marital assets and debts, as follows:
- Paycheck stubs from all sources of employment over the last year, for you and your spouse. If either of you are self-employed, provide income tax returns and any tax forms or business forms related to self-reported income. In this case, include records related to business-related expenses, which could include your checkbook registers, bank statements, cancelled checks, and tax receipts.
- Documentation from any business interest held by you or your spouse over the past three years.
- Copies of your joint or individual tax returns, both state and federal, for the past three to five years.
- Financial statements, or net worth statements prepared for purposes of securing loans from a bank, or for any other reason.
- Documentation from your mortgage company or bank containing the legal description of the residence and whether jointly or separately.
- Your current mortgage statements on any mortgages you have on real estate property.
- All documents pertaining to the initial purchase of the real estate.
- All documents pertaining to a property’s refinance, if applicable.
- Tax assessor’s statement(s) pertaining to any and all real estate.
- Savings certificates and savings passbooks from an account owned by both you and your spouse, whether in your individual name or jointly.
- Bank statements for the past three years from any account in your name, your spouse’s, or held jointly.
- Statements from investment accounts you and your spouse hold jointly and separately.
- Statements pertaining to life insurance policies on you, your spouse, or your children, whether it is an individual policy or a policy issued by your employer.
- A detailed list of your unsecured debts that includes credit cards, medical bills, and any other loans you may have in your name or your spouse’s name.
- Recent statements for any investments, pensions, retirement accounts, 401(k)s, mutual funds, and IRAs.
- Title or registration to all vehicles owned by you and/or your spouse or jointly, including cars, trucks, SUVs, boats, all terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, farm equipment, or other vehicles.
- Include any documents related to any outstanding debt on the vehicles, such as payment coupons, amortization schedules, or monthly statements.
- Collectibles, jewelry, intellectual property, co-ownership of businesses, children’s educational savings accounts, and household furnishings are other items that should also be documented.
If you hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce, your attorney may have additional documents that he or she will request in the course of your proceedings.
Provide Service Information
Before filing, it’s helpful to have information about where and when your spouse can be served the legal papers. If you can provide the address and certain days and times that your spouse can be served, it can save you money and time. Either the sheriff’s department in the county where your case is filed, or a court-approved special process server will have to provide your spouse with the petition and the court summons in order for the divorce case to proceed. If your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown, or the server has to make several attempts, you could end up paying more in service fees. Furthermore the court proceedings could be delayed, as it is required that the Respondent be properly served and given thirty days to respond to the petition.
If your divorce will be uncontested and you and your spouse have agreed on the marital elements discussed previously, your spouse may be able to waive service according to the rules of the court where your petition was filed.
Hire A Missouri Family Law Attorney
If you are seeking a divorce in Missouri, specifically in the Kansas City area, an experienced divorce lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome. It’s important to understand and protect your rights. The Law Firm of Kenneth L. Jamison, located in Liberty, Missouri, has the experience, insight, and family law expertise to help you through your divorce proceedings. For a confidential consultation contact our firm at (816) 200-7436 or reach out via our website. We look forward to hearing from you.