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Divorce or Custody Case Process

Divorce or Custody Case Process

Divorce or Custody Case Process in Missouri

No two family law cases are identical, but there are some common requirements or steps that all cases must complete. Here’s what to expect in a typical Missouri Divorce or Custody case.

Preparation & Planning

If you’re considering a divorce, even if you haven’t made a final decision yet, it is a good idea to begin planning for your life after a potential split. It may become more difficult to find and gather important records like financial documents, insurance or health policies, and account numbers if you move out of the family home or your spouse becomes secretive once they suspect divorce is possible. For more divorce preparation tips, please visit our blog.

Find an Attorney

The divorce and child custody process in Missouri can be extremely complicated, and it is important to have an experienced Missouri family lawyer on your side. Our firm handles a wide variety of legal matters concerning divorce and child custody, and we can begin working with you today on your case.

File Divorce Petition

The process of filing for divorce in Missouri is known as filing a petition for the dissolution of marriage. Missouri is a no-fault state, which means that neither party should plan to allege grounds for the divorce. Rather, instead of stating grounds for a divorce, spouses in Missouri get divorced on the basis of irreconcilable differences. In order to be eligible to have a divorce granted in Missouri, you must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days prior to filing. After you file for divorce, Missouri law also requires that you wait 30 days until the court can grant the divorce.

Wait for Response

The spouse who receives the divorce petition is known as the respondent, and they will have 30 days to file an answer to the petition. In some cases, if the respondent denies that the marriage is broken, counseling and/or legal separation can be ordered before a divorce will be granted, although not common.

Temporary Motions

While the terms of a divorce settlement are being negotiated, some issues will need to be resolved temporarily. For example, as you and your ex work out a parenting plan, your children will need a stable home in the meantime. Temporary motions are often used to address issues like custody, use of marital assets, and financial support while a divorce is pending. These orders remain in effect until a final settlement is reached.


The process of gathering and verifying the information provided by each spouse is known as discovery. This commonly involves collecting documents like tax statements, insurance policies, and retirement account information. Your attorney may also be able to require your former spouse to turn over certain documents related to the divorce. In more complex cases, like when couples have high value or unusual assets or one spouse is concealing assets, discovery may be more complex and take more time.

Settlement or Trial

Most divorce cases end in a settlement, but if the parties cannot reach a compromise, then a trial is required to have the court decide on a settlement and/or parenting plan. For a divorce, the issues covered in the settlement may include:

Division of Marital Property

Missouri is an equitable distribution state. Accordingly, all property will be classified either as separate property or marital property, and then all marital property will be divided between the spouses in a manner that is fair to both parties. While equitable distribution can result in a 50/50 split, property does not need to be split equally since “equitable” means fair. Courts consider a variety of factors to determine a fair distribution of marital assets and debts.

Child Custody

Courts make child custody decisions by focusing on the best interests of the child. Parents can share legal and physical custody, or these forms of custody can be awarded to just one parent who will have sole custody. Legal custody gives parents the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, while physical custody gives the parents the right to spend time with the child and participate in day-to-day care.

Child Support

Missouri uses the “income shares” model to calculate child support, which means the net incomes of both parents will be used to calculate a total child support obligation.

Spousal Maintenance or Alimony

Spousal maintenance—also known as support maintenance, spousal support, or alimony—is a payment that the court orders one spouse to pay to another as part of the divorce case. Missouri courts may order maintenance that is temporary, periodic, or permanent given the facts of the case. Maintenance will only be awarded in cases where the court finds that the spouse seeking it needs the support.

Post-decree Issues

Divorce and custody orders may be modified in certain circumstances. To have an order modified, the party seeking the modification must be able to show that there was a substantial change in circumstances that renders the existing order unreasonable. For child custody modifications, the modification also must be in the best interest of the child.

Contact Our Divorce Lawyers in Missouri

If you have questions about divorce or custody and need assistance, the best place to seek advice is from an experienced Missouri divorce and child custody attorney. Contact Scott A. Hamblin for more information about the family law services we provide.

He’s On Your Side

Scott will keep you up to date on all important developments in your case. When you need to get in touch with him, he will be there to answer your call or return it promptly.

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