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Legal Information: Missouri

Missouri Divorce

Laws current as of
November 14, 2019

This page has basic information about divorce in Missouri. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.

What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Missouri?

The judge can grant you a divorce in Missouri, if s/he finds that:

  1. either you or your spouse has been a resident of Missouri, or a military member stationed in Missouri, for at least 90 days before you filed for divorce; and
  2. it has been at least 30 days since you filed for divorce.1

1 MO ST § 452.305(1)

What are the grounds for divorce in Missouri?

Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for divorce. You can get a no-fault divorce in Missouri if a judge finds there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be saved, and therefore the marriage is irretrievably broken (cannot be fixed).1

If both you and your spouse agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken or if one of you tells the judge your marriage is irretrievably broken and the other person does not deny it, the judge may grant you a divorce after considering the petition and holding a hearing.2

If your spouse tells the court that s/he does not believe the marriage is irretrievably broken, the judge can only grant a fault-based divorce if you can prove at least one of the following things is true:

  1. your spouse has committed adultery, and you can’t tolerate living with him/her;
  2. your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can’t be reasonably expected to live with him/her;
  3. your spouse abandoned you for at least six uninterrupted (continuous) months before you filed for divorce;
  4. you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least 12 straight months before filing for divorce, and there was a “mutual agreement” to do so – in other words, you both agreed to the arrangement; or
  5. you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least 24 months straight before you or your spouse filed for divorce but there was not a “mutual agreement” to do so – in other words, one spouse didn’t agree to the arrangement.3

1 MO ST § 452.305
2 MO ST § 452.320(1)
3 MO ST § 452.320(2)

Can I get alimony?

Alimony (which is called maintenance in Missouri) is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse. In Missouri, if you request maintenance, a judge may grant you maintenance if:

  • you do not have enough money or property, including what you may have received in the divorce case, to provide for your reasonable needs; and
  • you are unable to support yourself through appropriate employment, or you are caring for a child whose condition or circumstances keep you from working outside of the home.1

If you ask for maintenance, a judge may decide how much financial support you get and for how long you can get it after considering the following factors:

  1. how much money or property you have to provide for your reasonable needs, including what you may have received in the divorce case and any child support you may be getting;
  2. how much time you need to get enough education or training to find employment;
  3. how much you could earn in a job in comparison to your spouse;
  4. the standard of living you had while you were married;
  5. your and your spouse’s obligations and property, including what you each received in the divorce and what you own separately;
  6. how long you were married;
  7. your age and physical and emotional condition;
  8. your spouse’s ability to meet his/her own financial needs while paying you maintenance;
  9. how you and your spouse behaved while married; and
  10. any other relevant factors.2

A judge will also decide if the maintenance order can be changed (modified) in the future. If there has been a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances” that took place before your maintenance order expires, a judge can decide to change your order. You or your spouse may be able to request that the judge decrease, increase, extend, terminate, or otherwise change the order.3

1 MO ST § 452.335(1)
2 MO ST § 452.335(2)
3 MO ST § 452.335(3)

What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:

  • First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.

  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.

  • Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.)

  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.

  • Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Where can I find additional information about divorce?

We hope the following links to outside sources may provide helpful information.

Missouri Judiciary provides the court forms that you may need if you want to file for divorce.

Missouri Bar Association has a pamphlet about divorce that includes a glossary of commonly used legal terms in divorce cases and information about maintenance.

Legal Services of Missouri has information about divorce, including grounds for divorce and residency requirements in Missouri.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.