WARNING: This information is not a substitute for a lawyer. Do not try to use this information as a do-it-yourself divorce guide. The information contained may not be appropriate for your particular situation. If you attempt to use this information instead of hiring a lawyer, you are setting yourself up for a potential disaster of epic proportions.
Divorce is a part of life in this country. A divorce may be necessary to allow you to lead a better, more productive life. Divorce is not easy and usually not pleasant.
This page will describe many issues; some will apply in your case and some will not. However, knowing those that apply to your case will help you avoid some problems and better deal with others. It does not and cannot cover all of the issues, laws, or rules involved.
DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
In Missouri we now call divorce Dissolution of Marriage. To obtain a dissolution of marriage in Missouri you must file a verified petition that alleges that your marriage is irretrievably broken and the court must find that there remains no reasonable likelihood that your marriage can be preserved and that your marrige is indeed irretrievably broken. Additionally, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of Missouri for ninety days or more immediately prior to filing for dissolution and thirty days must elapse between the filing of the petition and the hearing on your dissolution of marriage. There are other statutory requirements to obtain a dissolution of marriage in Missouri that I have not addressed on this page, and it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney regarding your dissolution.
The only grounds for a dissolution in Missouri when both parties agree are that
a) there is no likelihood that their marriage can be preserved; and
b) the marriage is therefore irretrievably broken.
However, if one party disputes that the marriage is irretrievably broken under oath, the court must consider other factors and make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In order for the court to make this finding, a party requesting a divorce must prove one or more of the factors set out by statute. These factors include:
a) That the other party has committed adultery and the petitioning party finds it intolerable to live with him or her;
b) That the other party has behaved in such a way that the petitioning party cannot reasonably be expected to live with other party;
c) That the parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for a continuous period of twelve months immediately preceding the filing of the petition;
d) That the parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least twenty-four months preceding the filing of the petition.
Practically speaking however, most judges in the Counties in which I practice will find a marriage to be irretrievably broken if one of the parties testifies that it is.
A judgment of dissolution will end your marriage and will provide for the division of your property and for the care and custody of any children of the marriage.
Although legal separation is possible, I generally do not recommend it. You are still married for most purposes. You usually wind up divorced anyway, and instead of paying for one lawsuit, you pay for two. If you are not ready for a divorce but you want to talk things over with someone, I recommend counseling. Do not use a “trial separation” as a substitute for effective counseling. If you want the marriage to work, you will probably need counseling. If you do not want a divorce, counseling is a good way to avoid it or prepare you if you must go through it.
An annulment is granted by the court only in certain circumstances. The marriage must have been void or voidable on the date of the marriage. Unlike a dissolution of marriage which ends the marital relationship on the date of the judgment, an annulment declares that the “marriage” never took place. If you believe you have grounds for an annulment, it is important that you seek the services of an attorney.
The Missouri Supreme Court has recently devised forms that you can use to represent yourself in your dissolution of marriage. Those forms can be found at http://www.selfrepresent.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=5240.
I am providing this link for your use, however keep in mind that these forms do not come with any kind of legal advice and generally are not adequate if you have any of the following situations:
1) You have purchased or refinanced “real property” (land, houses, etc)during your marriage;
2) Either party has “real property” that was purchased prior to the marriage;
3) Either party has a 401(k); an IRA; a pension or other retirement plan;
4) There has been domestic violence during the marriage;
5) Either party inherited titled property of any kind that has since been retitled in both parties names;
6) There are children of the marriage who have not yet graduated or who have special needs.
There are other situations in which I don’t recommend a do-it-yourself dissolution, so this list is not comprehensive. If you are not in a very short term marriage, where no significant property has been acquired during the marriage, and where there are no children of the marriage; then you really need to consider retaining an attorney to represent you.