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Missouri Uncontested Divorce

This information is an overview of the uncontested Missouri divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Missouri.

To file for a divorce, one of the spouses must be a resident of Missouri for 90 days before filing for a dissolution of a marriage. The action should be filed in the county where the Petitioner resides. There is also a 30-day waiting period after the action has begun before a dissolution can be granted.

The only ground for dissolution in Missouri is No-Fault, which means there is an "[i]rretrievable breakdown of the marriage and no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved."

Dissolutions are filed in the Circuit Court of the county.

The spouse filling the action is called the Petitioner; the spouse responding to the action is called the Respondent. When the spouses file jointly to end a marriage, they are called Co-Petitioners.

Legal separations are permitted when an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage happens as a result of 1) adultery, 2) abandonment, 3) separations caused by misconduct in the year before filing the petition, 4) spousal behavior that the other spouse cannot reasonably be expected to live with, 5) living separate and apart for two years. One of the spouses must be a resident of Missouri for 90 days before he or she can file for a legal separation.

Missouri permits simplified divorce. In this routine, the spouses file jointly. Some counties have approved preprinted forms for filing a joint petition for dissolution.

When one of the spouses files as an individual, the Petitioner must file the following forms:

> A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Form PSC001, which states that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no reasonable likelihood it can be preserved; the date and location of the marriage; the date the spouses separated; where they live and work; whether there are minor children and where they reside, and the proposed custody arrangements;

> A Statement of Income and Expense, PSC050, which lists the income and expenses of both spouses;

> A Statement of Property and Debt and the Proposed Separation Agreement, Form PSC040, which profiles the assets and liabilities of the couple and the division and distribution the Petitioner seeks;

> Missouri Department of Health Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage, Form PSC065, which records the divorce for record keeping purposes;

> Family Court Filing Certificate, PSC067, which lists any other pending actions involving the parties of the dissolution, so that cases may be assigned without fear of a conflict of interest;

> Judgment of Dissolution, PSC070, which is signed by the court and ends the marriage;

> A Parenting Plan, PSC501, which spells out the terms and conditions of the custody and visitation of the minor children and their support;

> An Answer to the Petition of Dissolution, Form PSC010, which is completed by the Respondent when he or she agrees with the complaint and filed by the Petitioner.

After the Petition has been filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Respondent must be given service of process.

The four most common ways of serving process are these:

> Waiver of personal service, in which the Petitioner delivers a copy of the petition to the Respondent who signs and verifies a notarized form called an Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service, which is returned to the Petitioner and filed;

> Personal Service, in which the county sheriff or another court officer hand delivers the Petition to the Respondent;

> Private or Special Process Server, which may be useful when the Respondent is being difficult or trying to avoid being served;

> Service by Publication, in which the Petitioner, having failed to serve the Respondent by any of the three methods above, petitions the court for permission to publish a notice of the dissolution in a newspaper. The Respondent has 45 days from the date of last publication to file an Answer. If he or she does not file an Answer, the Petitioner may file for a default judgment.

Otherwise, after the Respondent has been properly served, he or she has 30 days to file an Answer. If he or she does not file an Answer, the Petitioner may go to court and ask for a default judgment.