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Home > Family Law Guide > Divorce


The legal term for a divorce is "dissolution" because the "bonds of matrimony" are dissolved. The process of dissolving the "bonds of matrimony" can cause many personal, family, and financial hardships. At Wegner Buchanan, in most cases, we encourage clients to attempt to resolve differences with their spouses and save their marriages. Unfortunately, not all marriages can be saved. Over half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Divorce can involve many complex issues, such as child custody, child support, maintenance (alimony), and the division of marital property. These issues can have a profound impact on your life going forward. If you are considering divorce, you undoubtedly have many questions about the process, your rights, and the impact on your family and your finances. Our Divorce Guide addresses many commonly asked questions. If you have any questions, CALL US TODAY AT (314)726-6464 AND WE WILL MEET WITH YOU AT NO CHARGE TO DISCUSS YOUR CASE.

What do I do to start my case for dissolution of marriage?

In most cases, you should have an attorney representing you in an action for dissolution of marriage. The filing requirements for dissolution differ by county, but generally involve the following steps:

  1. File a petition which tells the court general biographical information about your marriage. The petition must include everything listed in the statute and must be signed by you and your signature notarized.
  2. Request that the court issue a summons, which is a notice to the other party that the case has been filed, and send a copy of the summons and petition to the other party.
  3. Pay a filing fee which is set by local rules.
  4. Prepare and file financial statements detailing your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.
  5. If you have minor children, prepare and file a parenting plan that details how custody of the children will be managed by the parents. Click here for more information on parenting plans.

If you decide not to hire an attorney, you should understand that you will have to follow the local rules of the county court where your case is filed and all of the rules in the statutes of the State of Missouri.

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Do I have to show that my spouse was at fault to get a divorce?

Missouri allows "no fault" divorces. If one party testifies that "the marriage is irretrievably broken" and "there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved", then a dissolution is ordinarily granted. Sometimes the other spouse will deny that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In this event, the judge must decide whether the marriage is irretrievably broken, however, usually a divorce is granted even though one party may deny that it is irretrievably broken.

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Do I have to be a resident of the State of Missouri to file for a dissolution of marriage in this State?

You or your spouse must have been a resident of the State of Missouri for ninety days immediately before the petition for dissolution of marriage was filed.

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Where should my case be filed?

Missouri law requires that the case be filed in the county where you reside or the county where your spouse resides.

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What do I do if my spouse has filed a petition for dissolution?

You must file and "answer" within the time stated on the summons that you will receive. In the answer you must "admit" or "deny" the items stated in the petition and the "answer" must be signed by you and your signature must be notarized.

If you do not file an answer, the court can proceed with the divorce without hearing any information from you. If you receive a summons telling you that your spouse has filed for dissolution of marriage, it is very important that you file an answer. Ordinarily, you will want to retain an attorney to file an answer for you.

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What happens if I cannot locate my spouse?

You can do one of two things:

  1. A notice can be published in the local newspaper. The notice allows the judge to dissolve the marriage, but the judge cannot divide the property, order maintenance, order child support or child custody. In fact, the judge can't do much except dissolve the marriage.
  2. You can try and find your spouse by running a check of records, by talking with friends or family members or by hiring a private investigator.

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Can the parties reach an agreement to settle all of their differences?

Most courts make a great effort to encourage the parties to settle their differences. This is particularly true if children are involved. The more bitter the dissolution fight, the more uncomfortable the children will be. Some courts encourage or require mediation, which is a formal procedure that encourages the parties to make reasonable concessions and reach an agreement. There are professionally trained mediators that can be very helpful in this regard.

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Does dissolution of marriage have to be hard fought and bitter?

Dissolution of marriage is almost always difficult, particularly if there are children involved. It is almost inevitable that there will be disagreements. It takes two people to reach an agreement; however, anything that you can do to keep the relationship calm and rational will probably be to your benefit. A provocation by one spouse is usually met with retaliation and the atmosphere can degenerate. When parties seek revenge for past injustice, presumed or real, the battle can be long, expensive and bitter. Even though the statute allows the judge to consider the conduct of the parties in dividing the property, the judge will probably place little weight on the misconduct unless it involves clear physical or emotion abuse. Remember you are paying your attorney by the hour and it is usually a bad idea to escalate the battle if it can be avoided.

In summary, try to remain rational and calm and avoid unnecessarily angering your spouse. Remember that you once loved this person and if you have children, you will need to work together in the future to raise these children. Be assertive about your rights, but do not be petty and do not use your children as pawns. We understand that you may have a spouse that is being difficult, and we will help you focus on being calm so that the best possible outcome can be attained.

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