Filing for divorce is an extremely difficult situation for everyone involved, no matter how poor the relationship, and if there are kids involved, it only makes the situation worse.
The divorce process can be a very simple one, but can also be extremely difficult. How smoothly the divorce goes depends on the amount of agreements and disagreements there are in split.
As divorce attorneys in St. Louis, Missouri, we have dealt with a wide range of divorces and have seen the easiest separations and also some very difficult ones. Division of property, child custody, child support, alimony and a handful of other factors during dissolution of marriage process will have a huge baring on how quickly, expensive, and smoothly the divorce process goes.
Is divorce my only remaining option?
This is the primary question the state asks when an individual decides to file for a divorce. The State of Missouri requires an individual to believe the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and divorce is the only remaining option.
Am I or my spouse a resident in the State of Missouri?
An immediate prerequisite to file for divorce in Missouri is that you or your spouse being a legal resident in the State of Missouri. If you are not residents in the state you will need to either become one and wait 90 days to file, or file for the state in which you a legally deemed a resident.
Do I need to hire an attorney to handle my dissolution of marriage case?
A more detailed analysis of this answer can be found in Step 1, but you will need to decide if you are going to represent yourself or if you will need to hire an attorney for your divorce and/or family law case.
Is your divorce a contested or uncontested divorce?
A contested divorce means there are no disputes on things like property division, alimony, child support, or child custody. In other words, all you need to do is complete the appropriate filings and documentation. If you are filing a contested divorce you and your spouse have not reached an agreement on certain elements of the marriage and the courts will be required to make a ruling(s).
While every divorce is different, the primary steps to completing your dissolution of marriage can be broken down into five steps. These steps can be seen below, along with a summary of what each step entails.
In most cases when an individual decides to represent themselves it is to avoid the divorce and/or family law attorney’s costs. Divorce fees are never an expense an individual likes to pay, but if you do chose to represent yourself you put yourself at risk of paying additional fees in child support or alimony, unfair property distribution rulings, and even unfair child custody rulings.
Ultimately, there are two options to chose from when you decide to file for divorce:
Regardless of whether or not you choose to hire a divorce and / or family law attorney, it does not hurt to request a consultation to discover your options. Most divorce and family law firms offer a free initial consultation. Speaking with an attorney can get a lot of your questions answered about things like costs, legal filings, property distributing, and child custody situating. We highly suggest, at the very least, to contact a local divorce attorney to help you make a more educated decision on whether or not you represent yourself.
If you chose to hire a divorce attorney the first thing you should determine is whether or not they are certified to practice law in the county you choose to file for divorce.
Another key factor you should keep in mind when hiring a divorce lawyer is whether they not they are a practicing family law lawyer. If children, especially under the age of 18, are involved you want to make sure your attorney has the ability to handle family law matters like child support and child custody.
We, like many divorce and family lawyers in St. Louis, offer a free consultation to help individuals contemplating divorce.
If you chose to represent yourself, there are certain requirements that must be met. The State of Missouri requires anyone representing themselves in a family law matter to complete a two step “Litigant Awareness Program“. After you complete your program you will need to file your certificate with the court.
The first step of the Litigant Awareness Program is to read this written documentation or watch the video shown below.
The second step of Missouri’s divorce Litigant Awareness Program is to read and complete the certificate stating you have watched the video and read the documentation relevant to your family law matter. The state provides resources for seven different family law matters. Depending on your case, there may be multiple resources you will be required to read before filing your certificate.
You can find out more information on the seven resources by clicking a link below.
Once you have read all of the documentation that applies to your case you need to fill out the Litigation Awareness Program completion form so it can be filed with the state.
All of the counties and the City of St. Louis are divided into 46 judicial circuits. Ever county in the state has its own court, and family law courts are divisions of these circuit courts.
In order to file for divorce in Missouri you must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days. After this time period is complete you are free to file for divorce, but you must file in the county in which you or your spouse lives.
To determine which court you need to file your dissolution of marriage in you can click here to use Missouri’s “Find a court search” tool.
Once there you will see search box like the image above.
You can enter you City or Zip code to find your county’s court and address. You can also use this tool to find out if there are any county-specific forms that are required when filing your documents.
The Dissolution of Marriage package is a sixty-six page document provided by the Missouri Supreme Court that can be seen here.
The package is made up of eight different forms, most of which are required to be filled out although some county’s courts have different requirements. The eight forms include:
This step is only applicable when children under the age of 18 are involved in the divorce. There are a lot of different forms that may need to be completed depending on an individual’s situation and any disputes that may arise involving things like child custody and child support.
It is highly advised that you consult with a family law attorney before filing and submitting any paternity forms involving children. Some of the forms you may need to fill out at this stage include:
There are also other forms that may be required depending on the circumstances of the divorce. If certain elements of the Mother’s or Father’s Petition Packet, like a Parenting Plan, are not filed, you may be required to file individual forms like a Petition for Child Custody, or a Petition for Change of Name.
Some Missouri Counties also require a Family Court Information Sheet. You can read the Case Types List to determine if it is necessary for these documents to be completed. You can also check with your county’s courts to verify if a Family Court Information Sheet is required.
Almost all of the dissolution and Family Law forms can be edited online (As long as you have a modern web browser) and printed to make the filing process easier. Once the form has been completed you will need to hand it in to your local circuit court for filing.
Once they have filed and reviewed the court will issue a summons to your spouse informing them that you have filed for divorce (unless they were involved in the initial completion of the Petition of Dissolution packet and filled out the “Respondent’s Answer to Petition’s Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” section of the packet).
The State of Missouri also requires a filing fee that must be paid upon submitting your documents. The exact amount on this fee varies from county to county.