The decision to file for a divorce is never an easy one. Whether spouses reach the conclusion together or apart, the choice is often made because it is what is right for themselves and their families. If you are planning to file for a divorce in Missouri, you may be uncertain about how misconduct or illegal actions can affect a divorce and if that is even grounds for a divorce. A St. Louis divorce attorney can help you determine the simplest way to handle your divorce.

Each state has different requirements to file for a divorce, along with different considerations throughout its divorce proceedings. It’s crucial that you understand the laws in Missouri and the ways that they affect how and when you can file for a divorce.

Is Missouri a No-Fault Divorce State?

Missouri is a no-fault divorce state. This means that spouses do not have to place blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, they can file on the grounds of an “irretrievably broken” marriage, stating that there is no reasonable way that the marriage can be preserved. Most states have no-fault grounds that allow spouses to get a divorce without proving misconduct or illegal actions. This can make the process easier and less contentious for many couples.

If the petitioning spouse filed on these grounds and the respondent spouse does not dispute it, then a dissolution of their marriage can be granted once a separation agreement or court decision has been reached.

Although some states allow both fault and no-fault grounds, this is not true in Missouri. There are no fault-based divorce options in this state. That does not mean that spousal misconduct is completely irrelevant to the divorce, however.

How Does Misconduct Affect a Divorce?

Misconduct in a marriage may affect property division or spousal maintenance when these are determined by the court. If the court decides the division of a couple’s marital property, one of the considerations is the conduct of each spouse during their marriage. Misconduct may result in the other spouse receiving a greater share of marital assets.

When the court decides if a spouse should receive spousal maintenance, the amount and duration of that maintenance will be decided based on several factors, including the conduct of each spouse during the marriage. If a spouse paying spousal maintenance engaged in misconduct, this may increase the amount or length of time that they will pay spousal maintenance.

Misconduct of spouses only affects child custody if it adversely affects the child’s interests. When there is evidence of abuse by a parent, this will affect child custody decisions.

Other Requirements to File for Divorce

Missouri also has residency requirements for spouses filing for divorce. At least one spouse has to have been a resident of Missouri for 90 days prior to filing for a divorce, or they must have been a member of the armed forces stationed in Missouri for 90 days. The final divorce judgment can be filed by the court 30 days after the petitioner files, assuming that the division of property, spousal maintenance, child custody, and child support have been determined and approved.

Missouri does not have a required separation of spouses prior to filing. However, if the respondent spouse contests the claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken, then the separation of the spouses is one potential way to prove that it is irretrievably broken.

Contesting No-Fault Divorce Grounds in Missouri

If the respondent disagrees that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the petitioner must prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken to obtain a divorce. This can be done by showing one of the following:

  1. The respondent spouse committed adultery.
  2. The respondent’s behavior is such that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.
  3. The respondent abandoned the petitioner for a continual six months before the petition was made.
  4. Spouses lived separately by mutual consent for a minimum of 12 months prior to filing the petition.
  5. Spouses lived separately for a minimum of 24 months prior to the petition.

The court will consider this information and all the relevant factors in determining whether the marriage is irretrievably broken.


Q: Does Adultery Affect Divorce in Missouri?

A: Adultery can affect divorce in Missouri, although it does not affect the initial filing of a divorce. Missouri only allows divorces filed on no-fault grounds, so adultery does not affect this.

Adultery may affect other areas of the divorce, such as property division or spousal maintenance. The court considers the conduct of the spouses during their marriage when dividing assets or deciding on the necessity and amount of maintenance. The court may consider adultery to be grounds to give the other spouse more marital assets or spousal support.

Q: What Is the Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in Missouri?

A: A wife is entitled to an equitable share of marital assets in a divorce in Missouri. Both spouses have the same rights to marital property, and the court determines the split of these assets. Although this split could be equal, it usually isn’t. Instead, it is normally split equitably. Some of the factors that Missouri courts review include:

  • The value of each spouse’s separate property
  • Each spouse’s conduct in the marriage
  • The contributions of each spouse to acquiring marital property
  • Each spouse’s economic circumstances
  • Child custody arrangements

Q: Do You Need to Have a Reason for a Divorce in Missouri?

A: Your marriage must be irretrievably broken in Missouri to file for divorce, which is a no-fault reason for divorce. You do not need a fault-based reason to file. If your spouse contests that the marriage is broken, you may have to show proof of an irretrievably broken marriage, which may include separation, abandonment, adultery, or abuse.

If a spouse does not contest a claim of an irretrievably broken marriage, fault-based reasons for divorce are not needed to file, although they may be relevant in other aspects of the divorce.

Q: Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Missouri?

A: Because Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, it does not matter who files for divorce first in the divorce proceedings. In fault-based divorce states, the party who files first can file based on fault grounds. In Missouri, the only reason to file first is if a party wishes to present their case to the court first. This can be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage. There can be other potential advantages to filing first, including choosing the court in which to file the petition if a couple is eligible to file in multiple venues.

Contact Stange Law Firm in St. Louis

When you need legal support for your St. Louis divorce, contact Stange Law Firm.