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Family Law in Missouri

What Should You Think About Before Filing for Divorce?

• How much will it cost for the husband and wife to live apart?

• How much will it cost to support the children?

• How much will the divorce cost?

•The husband and wife must wait to go to court at least 30 days after filing for divorce and service on the other spouse.

• It will take longer if the spouse’s can’t agree on some things.

•A lawyer may ask them to talk with a marriage counselor to see if they can work out their problems.

• The lawyer gets paid for trying to solve their problem, even if he doesn’t succeed.

If the Problem Can’t be Solved

If there are children, the lawyer helps the client find a plan for their custody. The lawyer decides what witnesses to use. The lawyer helps the client decide what property and support to ask for. The lawyer helps the client decide whether to make temporary arrangements for custody of the children.

Custody of Children

The judge will be particularly concerned about what is best for the children rather than the adults. Missouri law says that children cannot be taken out of the state or from the parent who has had the custody of them until after the case is decided.

The judge will think about:

• the wishes of each parent
• the wishes of the children, depending on how old they are
• where the children will get along better
• the best interests of the child

Usually the parent who does not have primary custody is expected to support the children. Missouri law provides strict guidelines for parents who wish to relocate from their residence after a judgment has been entered.

What is Joint Legal Custody?

Joint legal custody is a way parents share the decision-making responsibilities and rights regarding the children.

What is Joint Physical Custody?

Joint physical custody is sharing of the time with the children. This can be equal time with each parent, but doesn’t have to be.


In deciding how much support is needed for either spouse, a judge thinks about: how long the husband and wife have been married; the ages of the husband and wife; their health; their work and what they earn; and what money or property they have. Support for a spouse is called maintenance. It was formerly known as alimony.

How is the Property Divided?

In deciding how to divide the property fairly, the judge considers how much each spouse has helped to get the property, which parent the children will live with to give them a good home, and whether either spouse abused the other.

The husband and wife may write an agreement on their support and the support and custody of the children, and an agreement about how the children spend time with each parent. The judge must approve this agreement.

What is Dissolution?

It is another name for divorce. It is a legal ending of the marriage, so that both spouses become single again. The wife’s lawyer may ask that her name be changed back to her maiden name.

Does Missouri Have a No-Fault Divorce Law?

Yes and no. Generally, one person doesn’t have to prove that the other one is at fault in order to get a divorce. But the court can consider fault in deciding child custody, maintenance, or division of property issues.

What is Annulment?

A decision by the court that the marriage was not legal from the beginning.

If Your Spouse Files for a Divorce?

You will get a summons and a petition. If you do nothing the judge decides, and you may not get your say in what happens. Your lawyer may file an answer for you within 30 days after you receive the summons. You may contest the divorce, custody, child support or how the property is to be divided.