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  • Jun 28th, 2023

    The Stages of Contested Divorce in Missouri

    Child Custody, Child Support, Divorce, Divorce Preparation

    Understanding contested divorce in the State of Missouri

    A contested divorce can be a more complex and time-consuming process than an uncontested divorce, as it involves going to trial and having a judge make decisions about issues such as property division, alimony, and child custody. It’s important to have a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney on your side who can help you navigate the legal system and advocate for your rights and interests.

    Missouri is a No-Fault divorce state meaning that a spouse can file for divorce at any time with or without reason.

    A no-fault divorce means that neither party needs to prove wrongdoing or misconduct to obtain a divorce. In a no-fault divorce state, a divorce can be granted simply because the marriage is irretrievably broken or because the parties have irreconcilable differences. Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that couples can file for divorce based on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.

    However, it’s important to remember that each divorce case is unique and may have its own set of challenges and complexities. Working with an experienced attorney can help ensure that your case is handled effectively and that your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.

    The stages of Missouri’s contested divorce process

    Stage 1: Filing for divorce

    To begin the divorce process, one party must file a petition for divorce in the appropriate court.  Usually, you will need to file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, as well as financial statements (either with the Petition or shortly thereafter).

    The Missouri Courts branch website says to file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form:

    Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (CAFC001) form should be filed in the county in which either the petitioner or respondent resides. Filing fees vary depending on the type of case. Filing fee information from your local court may be posted online. Use the “Find a Court” search feature to search for your local court. If you cannot afford the court filing fee, you may file an application asking that the fees be waived. This is sometimes called In Forma Pauperis (in the manner of a poor person). This form is available for download from the Dissolution of marriage forms page. The court will require detailed financial information so that the judge can decide if fees should be waived.

    Stage 2: Serving the divorce papers to the other party

    Next, you, the petitioner, will be required to provide your spouse, the petitioner, with an official notice. This portion of the process is crucial to your divorce, and we recommend consulting with a local divorce attorney to assist in both the filing for divorce and service of process. Some of the most commonly used service methods include:

    • Waiver of Personal Service: You provide the respondent with the papers which they sign and return to you
    • Personal Service: A court officer hand delivers the documents to the respondent
    • Private Process Server: If the respondent is difficult to find, a court-appointed process server can be used to hand deliver the documents

    Stage 3: Research and discovery

    During the discovery phase, both parties may exchange information and documents related to their finances, assets, and other relevant matters. During this phase, your divorce lawyer will spend time researching you and your spouse’s finances, debts, and other assets to determine what the best terms for you will be.

    Stage 4: Negotiation between parties

    The negotiation process is a key aspect of any contested divorce. During this stage, you and your spouse (most of the time done through your divorce attorneys) may attempt to reach a settlement agreement through negotiation or mediation.  It is becoming more common that Courts will order at least some mediation in each case unless there is good cause not to (such as domestic violence).

    It is likely that your divorce will be settled during this process to avoid drawing out an unpleasant experience and limiting the costs in legal fees.

    Stage 5: Case goes to divorce court

    If you and your spouse are unable to reach a settlement during the negotiating process, the case may proceed to trial, where a judge will make decisions about issues such as property division, alimony, and child custody.

    The pros are that you will get your day in Court, and an unreasonable party will usually be exposed at that point.  The cons are how long it takes to get to a trial and the costs associated with it.

    Getting the desired results from your contested divorce

    It’s important to note that these are just general guidelines, and the specific timeline for a divorce in Missouri can vary depending on the circumstances of the case, as no two contested matters are identical.

    If you are going through a divorce in Missouri, it’s a good idea to work with an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand the process and advocate for your interests and goals.

    It is highly recommended to use a divorce attorney for a contested divorce. The divorce process is one of the most stressful experiences you can endure and the complexities included with negotiating contested matters are always more successful when you have a divorce and family law attorney representing you.

    A divorce attorney can help you understand the legal process, advocate for your interests, and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. In a contested divorce, going to trial can be a complex and time-consuming process, and having an experienced attorney on your side can help you navigate the legal system and achieve a favorable outcome. If you are going through a contested divorce in Missouri, it’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand the process and advocate for your interests and goals.