Getting a Divorce in Missouri? Divorce Law Cheat Sheet for the state of Missouri

1. What are the residency requirements for filing for divorce in Missouri?

You or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least 90 days before filing for a divorce in Missouri. If you are a member of the armed services and stationed in Missouri, you also may file for a divorce there.

You must file in the county in which you or your spouse lives. If you file for a divorce in the county where you live, your spouse may ask the court to move the proceedings to his or her county under one of these circumstances:

  • The county in which your spouse lives is the county in which your children have lived for the past 90 days.
  • Moving the proceedings to the county in which your spouse lives would be in the best interest of your children.
  • Your children and at least one of you have a significant connection to the county, and there is a lot of evidence regarding the current or future care, protection, and personal relationships of your children in the county

2. Does Missouri have a waiting period?

Yes. The court will not grant a divorce decree until at least 30 days after you file.

3. Does the state have grounds for divorce?

Just one: You must show the court that your marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning there is no reasonable chance that your marriage can be saved.If both you and your spouse have stated under oath that your marriage is irretrievably broken, or one of you has said it is and the other has not denied it, the court will review your petition, hold a hearing to determine whether your marriage is really irretrievably broken, and either grant you a divorce or dismiss your case.

If you say your marriage is irretrievably broken and your spouse denies it, you must show that:

  • Your spouse has committed adultery (had an affair), and living with him or her is intolerable.
  • Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can’t reasonably be expected to live with him or her.
  • That your spouse has abandoned you and has been gone for at least six months.
  • That you and your spouse have lived separately for at least 12 months by mutual agreement.
  • That you and your spouse have lived separately for at least 24 months, whether you agreed to it or not.

When one of you denies your marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may put your hearing on hold for 30 days to six months and may suggest that you and your spouse seek counseling before ruling on your petition.

4. How does Missouri determine the division of property?

You and your spouse are encouraged to come up with a settlement on your own and present it to the court. If you can’t agree, the court will divide your property for you.The court will address only your marital property. Any property you or your spouse acquired while you were married is marital property (regardless of whose name is on the title) with the exception of:

  • Property that you acquired as a gift or inheritance.
  • Property that you received in exchange for property that you acquired as a gift or inheritance.
  • Property that you acquired after a decree of legal separation.
  • Any increase in value of the property that you acquired before you were married, unless marital funds or efforts contributed to that increase in value.
  • Even then, marital property is limited to the increase in value that can be directly associated with those marital funds or efforts.

Property that would otherwise be your separate property does not become marital property just because it was added to your marital property while you were married; for instance, money you received as a gift does not become marital property just because it was added to your joint banking account. The court will divide your marital property in whatever way it thinks is most fair, taking into account:

  • You and your spouse’s economic circumstances, including whether one of you should be awarded your family’s home or the right to live there for the sake of your children.
  • You and your spouse’s contributions to the acquisition of your marital property, including contributions as a homemaker.
  • The value of you and your spouse’s non-marital property.
  • You and your spouse’s conduct during your marriage.
  • The custodial arrangements for your children.

5. Does Missouri require mediation before a divorce is granted? 

Mediation is not a rule in Missouri, but in cases involving custody or visitation issues, the court may order you and your spouse to take part in an alternative dispute resolution program.

6. How does the state determine child custody?

Legal custody and physical custody are two different things. Legal custody outlines how involved each parent is in the major decisions of a child’s life — where a child goes to school, what faith he or she is raised in and other biggies.Physical custody addresses where a child will live and with whom. Visitation is then negotiated based your physical custody arrangement.

In Missouri, you and your spouse are required to submit a proposed parenting plan, either individually or together, within 30 days of filing.Your proposed parenting plan must include a specific written schedule detailing the custody, visitation and residential time for your child with each of you, including:

  • Major holidays (stating which holidays your child spends with each of you each year).
  • School holidays.
  • Your child’s birthday, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
  • Weekday and weekend schedules and how the winter, spring, summer and other vacations from school will be spent.
  • The times and places for transfer of your child between you and your spouse.
  • A plan for sharing transportation associated with your residential schedule.
  • Appropriate times for telephone calls.
  • Suggested ways you will notify each other when one of you requests a temporary change in your residential schedule.
  • Any suggested restrictions or limitations on access to one of you and the reasons such restrictions are requested.

Your plan also must address legal custody, detailing how the decision-making rights and responsibilities will be shared between you and your spouse, including the following:

  • Educational decisions and ways of communicating information from the school to both of you.
  • Medical, dental and health care decisions, including how health care providers will be selected and a way to communicate your child’s medical conditions.
  • How emergency care will be handled.
  • Extracurricular activities, including a method for determining which activities the child will participate in when those activities involve time during which each of you is the custodian.
  • Child care providers, including how such providers will be selected.
  • Communication procedures including access to telephone numbers as appropriate.
  • A way to resolve any disagreements between you and your spouse in interpreting your parenting plan.
  • If one of you requests no shared decision-making, you must explain why.

Finally, your parenting plan must explain how your child’s expenses (child care, educational and extraordinary expenses as defined in the state’s child support guidelines) will be paid, including:

  • The suggested amount of child support to be paid by each of you.
  • Who will maintain or provide health insurance for your child and how the medical, dental, vision, psychological and other health care expenses not paid by insurance will be paid by each of you.
  • The payment of educational expenses, if any.
  • The payment of extraordinary expenses, if any.
  • Child care expenses, if any.
  • Transportation expenses, if any.

If you and your spouse’s proposed parenting plans differ, and you can’t resolve the differences, or if one of you fails to file a proposed parenting plan, the court will determine custody based on the best interest of your child. The court will consider all relevant factors, including:

  • You and your spouse’s wishes for custody and the proposed parenting plans you each submitted.
  • Your child’s need for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both of you and your abilities and willingness to actively fulfill your roles as mother and father for your child’s needs.
  • Your child’s relationship with each of you, his or her siblings and any other person who could significantly affect your child’s life.
  • Which of you is more likely to allow your child frequent and continuing contact with the other.
  • Your child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community.
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved, including any history of abuse.
  • If the court finds a pattern of domestic violence, then custody and visitation will be erdered in a way that best protects your child, the other parent and other household members from further harm.
  • You and your spouse’s plans, if any, to relocate with your child.
  • Your child’s wishes.

The court will not award custody or unsupervised visitation if one of you or someone living with you has been found guilty of, or pled guilty to, offenses in which a child was the victim.The court may consider granting visitation rights to your child’s grandparents in your divorce, if they file a petition.

7. How does the state calculate child support?

Child support in Missouri is calculated according to state guidelines based on you and your spouse’s combined adjusted gross income and number of children. You begin the worksheet with you and your spouse’s gross incomes. You make adjustments for child support paid on behalf of other children and for alimony. Then you determine what percent of the combined adjusted gross income each of you earns.

Work-related child care costs, health insurance costs, extraordinary uninsured medical costs and any other extraordinary costs are factored into the worksheet. The amount of time your child lives with each of you also is factored in. From there, you arrive at a presumed child support amount.

It is assumed that this child support amount is appropriate. If one of you suggests that the child support determined by the guidelines is unfair, the court will take into consideration:

  • Your child’s financial needs and resources.
  • You and your spouse’s financial needs and resources.
  • Your child’s standard of living had you stayed married.
  • Your child’s physical and emotional condition and his or her educational needs your child’s physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time your child spends with each of you and the reasonable expenses associated with your custody or visitation arrangements.
  • Reasonable work-related child care expenses.

If your child spends more than 30 consecutive days with the parent who is ordered to pay child support (not counting visitation), child support may be reduced or cease entirely during that time.

If, when your child turns 18, he or she is still in high school, support must continue until your child graduates or turns 21. If your child goes to college after graduation and completes at least 12 hours of credit each semester (not including the summer semester), earning grades good enough to remain enrolled, support must continue until your child graduates or turns 21, whichever happens first.

To remain eligible for this continued support, your child has to submit to each of you a transcript or similar official document from the college that lists which courses he or she is enrolled in and has completed for each term; the grades and credits received for each course; and an official document from the institution listing the courses your child is enrolled in for the upcoming term with the number of credits for each course.

If your child receives failing grades in half or more of his or her courses in any one semester, payment of child support may be terminated and cannot be reinstated. If the non-custodial parent requests it, your child has to show him or her the required documents within 30 days of getting his or her grades. If your child fails to produce the required documents, payment of child support may terminate and will not be eligible for reinstatement.

Exceptions are granted if your child has been diagnosed with a developmental disability or health problem that limits how many credit hours he or she can take, or if your child is working more than 15 hours a week while going to school.

The court might ask one of you to give the right to claim the tax dependency exemption to the other parent if state and federal tax laws and eligibility for financial aid make an award of the exemption to the other parent appropriate.

8. How does the state determine and calculate alimony?

Alimony, also known as maintenance, is not automatically a part of a divorce, but either you or your spouse may request it. The court may consider awarding you alimony if you:

  • Don’t have adequate property to provide for your reasonable needs, even after including marital property awarded to you.
  • Are unable to support yourself through appropriate work or are the custodian for a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that you not be required to seek employment outside the home.

If the court decides to award alimony, it will take these factors into account when determining how much to order and for how long:

  • Your financial resources (including marital property) and your ability to meet your needs independently, as well as the extent to which support for a child living with you includes a sum for you as custodian.
  • How long it would take you to acquire the education or training necessary to find appropriate employment.
  • You and your spouse’s earning capacities.
  • The standard of living established during your marriage.
  • Your debts and assets.
  • You and your spouse’s separate property.
  • How long you were married.
  • You and your spouse’s ages.
  • Your physical and emotional condition.
  • Your spouse’s ability to meet his or her needs while paying alimony.
  • You and your spouse’s conduct during your marriage.
  • Anything else the court considers relevant.

Alimony may be awarded in one lump sum or paid periodically. It may or may not be modifiable. The court may set a termination date. If you remarry, alimony is automatically discontinued.

9. Is there a waiting period before remarriage in Missouri?

No, you are free to remarry after the court delivers the final judgment ending your marriage. An appeal that does not challenge the finding that your marriage is irretrievably broken does not prevent you from remarrying either.


The state statutes are online, here.

You’ll find parenting plan guidelines, child support worksheets and a wealth of other family law information for Missouri, here.

Please note: Local and state laws change constantly, therefore this information is for educational purposes only. We do our best to keep state-specific information up-to-date, but please contact us to discuss your unique situation.