Every couple expects their marriage to last a lifetime, yet more than 750,000 divorces are granted every year across the nation. While some marriages deteriorate due to infidelity or abuse, many couples decide to divorce because they married too young, failed to clarify their expectations for the relationship, or simply discovered they were growing apart as their interests or values changed over time. If you have concluded that dissolving your marriage is the right solution for your family, understanding how divorce works is crucial to ensure you can protect your rights and achieve the best outcome for your future.
Review the information below to learn how to file for divorce in St. Louis, then contact Stange Law Firm to secure expert legal representation in your case.
The 4 Steps of Filing for Divorce in St. Louis, MO
Obtaining a divorce in Missouri involves the following steps.
- Complete the Petition
If you are the spouse filing for divorce, you (the petitioner) initiate the dissolution case by completing a written Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage form. In this document, you will provide personal information about yourself and your spouse (the respondent), including:
- Mailing address
- Social Security number
- State and county of residency
- Amount of time living in this state/county
- Employment status
- Total gross monthly income from all sources
Then you answer questions about your marriage, such as:
- The date of marriage
- County your marriage was registered in
- Date of separation
- Whether there is any reasonable likelihood of preserving the marriage
You must list the number of children you and your spouse share, including children born before the marriage, after the marriage, or to other parents, and children you adopted. If you have a child, you must provide their:
- Social Security number
- Names of the child’s biological parents
- Names of parents listed on the birth certificate
- Your wishes for legal and physical custody of the child
You must also provide the names and addresses of any parents/guardians with whom the child has resided over the last five years, the state if there is anyone other than you and your spouse who has or claims to have physical custody of the child, and explain whether you have participated in litigation regarding custody.
The petition ends with a Request for Relief in which you specify the outcome or outcomes you are hoping to achieve in your case. Potential answers include:
- Granting the dissolution of marriage
- Granting custody of children from the marriage as stated above
- Entering child support orders
- Dividing marital property and debts
- Awarding maintenance to yourself
- Awarding maintenance to your spouse
- Changing your name or any other requests you may have concerning the divorce case
- File the Petition
Before you can file your petition, you must verify it by affirming that the facts in the petition are true and sign the petition under oath in the presence of a notary public. Then you can file your petition in either the county you reside or the county the respondent resides, along with any other forms required by your local court and a filing fee. This may include:
- Income and expense statement
- Statement of property and debt
- Filing information sheet, a certificate of dissolution
- Proposed judgment of dissolution of marriage
- Parenting plan if your case involves children
- Serve Your Spouse With the Petition
When you file the petition, you must serve the respondent with an official notice of the divorce case, referred to as service of process. Failure to complete this step or performing it incorrectly can delay the divorce process and may even result in dismissal of your case. The court clerk can prepare a summons and attach it to a copy of the petition, which serves as the official notice to appear in court. You cannot serve the papers yourself unless your spouse has already agreed to accept service of process from you. You must ask the county sheriff where the respondent lives or works to hand-deliver the petition or ask a private process server to do so. Both options require a fee for this service.
After service is completed, the respondent must complete an Answer (written response) that acknowledges they received the divorce petition and that the court has the ultimate authority over the case. This document can also be used to file an official response to the petition, allowing your spouse to ask for specific types of relief and to explain if they disagree with any statements outlined in your petition. The Answer must be filed within 30 days of service. If the respondent fails to provide an answer, you can go directly to court to ask for the relief requested in the petition.
- Attend Divorce Hearing
If you and your spouse can agree on all issues, your case is uncontested, but you must still go to court to demonstrate that you meet the legal requirements for a dissolution and obtain approval from the court to formally dissolve the marriage. If you cannot agree on all issues, you may be required to attend mediation to resolve your differences. At your divorce hearing, you are responsible for presenting evidence to the court that proves your case, such as documents, exhibits, and witness testimony. The respondent can also introduce evidence to support their arguments.
After the judge hears all evidence presented at the hearing, they make a written judgment that orders you to perform certain tasks, such as transferring property, signing documents, paying expenses, or changing names on accounts, titles, or deeds. Failing to follow the judge’s orders can result in additional court proceedings to enforce the judgment or be held in contempt of court. If your spouse does not comply with these orders, you can bring enforcement or contempt proceedings against them. Unless your spouse appeals the judge’s decision, your divorce becomes final 30 days after the judgment is issued.
Get the Best Results in Your Divorce Case
Filing for divorce can be a stressful and complicated endeavor, especially if your spouse is unwilling to communicate or cooperate to reach mutually beneficial terms. The best way to ensure you reach a favorable outcome is to hire a divorce attorney to handle your case from the very beginning. At Stange Law Firm, our expert lawyers provide comprehensive, responsive, and compassionate legal services to clients seeking a divorce, and we can help you navigate any issues that arise during your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.