INFORMATION ABOUT DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE IN MISSOURI

A person must be a resident of the State of Missouri for 90 days in order to file for dissolution of marriage in Missouri.

Missouri is a modified no-fault state, which means that for the court to hear the case, the person filing the petition must show that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Marital misconduct is a factor that can be considered in dividing property and awarding maintenance.

A dissolution of marriage case must be on file with the court for a least 30 days before the court can enter a decree of dissolution of marriage.

It is not necessary for the husband and wife to be separated in order to file for dissolution of marriage.

The filing fee for dissolution of marriage in St. Louis City is $209.00.  The filing fee in St. Louis County is $140.00.

Forms regarding income and property must be completed and filed along with the petition for dissolution of marriage.

In a dissolution of marriage case, the court must make provisions for child custody, child support, division of property, as well as maintenance (alimony) and attorney's fees, if necessary.


CHILD CUSTODY

There are two types of legal custody under Missouri law , joint legal custody and sole legal custody to one parent. Legal custody concerns the decision making for the child, including decisions regarding education, religion, health care, extracurricular activities, etc.

Joint legal custody means that the parents have an obligation to work together to make the decisions regarding their children's lives. In the event of a dispute, a dissolution decree will often require the parents to submit a dispute to mediation before returning to court.

Sole legal custody to one parent means that both parents have input into the decisions regarding their children's lives, but in the event of a dispute, the parent with sole legal custody can make the decision.

With either type of legal custody arrangement, there must be a plan for physical custody, so that arrangements are made for where the children will be on any given day.

A common physical custody schedule is known as the Siegenthaler schedule, and is printed on court forms. This physical custody plan provides that one parent has the children for most of the time during the week.  The other parent has the children every other weekend, one evening during the week, six weeks during the summer, and alternating holidays.


CHILD SUPPORT

Child support is calculated under Missouri law according to a chart. The chart includes income from both parents.  If one parent is not employed, and should be working, the court can impute income to that parent.

The chart includes expenses for day care, health insurance, and extraordinary expenses for the children.

Under Missouri law, child support continues until a child reaches the age of 18, however, if the child remains in school as a full time student after age 18 the child support obligation will continue until the child reaches age 21.

If the court enters an order for child support, a wage withholding order will be entered to have the child support deducted from a person's paycheck, unless the parents agree otherwise.

Effective August 28, 2007, the Missouri law has changed regarding the age of emancipation for child support. (Section 452.340, Revised Statutes of Missouri)

According to the law, child support continues until a child reaches the age of 18, however, if the child remains in school after age 18, the child support obligation will continue until the child reaches age 21.  Previously the law stated that the support continued until age 22.

In order to remain eligible for child support between ages 18 and 21, the child must be in school full time (12 credits).  Also, the child has the obligation to give each parent a transcript at the beginning of each semester and a grade report at the end of each semester.


DIVISION OF PROPERTY

In a dissolution of marriage case, the court has an obligation to divide all of the property belonging to the parties.  Missouri adopts the "equitable division of property" policy, which means that property must be divided equitably.

Generally, property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property.  Marital property is to be divided by the court in a dissolution of marriage case.

Generally, property brought to the marriage by either of the parties is separate property. Property acquired during the marriage by one of the parties by gift or inheritance may be separate property. The separate property of the parties is to be set aside to the appropriate party in a dissolution of marriage case.

It is not generally important how an item of property is titled; for example, if it is in individual names or joint names.  What is important is when the item of property was acquired, either before or during the marriage.


MAINTENANCE

Maintenance is what used to be known as alimony. Maintenance can be awarded in a dissolution of marriage case if either of the parties is not able to support himself or herself. Many factors are considered in deciding maintenance including the length of the marriage, age, health, work history, educational background, young children at home, and income level of the parties.

There are no formulas for calculation of maintenance, and it is evaluated on a case by case basis.

Maintenance is generally paid on a monthly basis either indefinitely or for a limited period of time.


ATTORNEY'S FEES

In a dissolution of marriage case, the court can give either party an award of attorneys fees so that the other party is ordered to pay for some portion of his or her attorneys fees. This is generally apportioned based on the income levels of the parties.