Divorce in Missouri
Supreme Court requires Litigant Awareness Program for self-represented
Some people inherently understand that divorce, or "dissolution of marriage," is an emotionally charged process that is painful to even contemplate. Likewise, many understand that at least consulting with an attorney is a wise move. However, often overlooked is the depth of emotional trauma and the benefit that can come from professional counseling. A compatible, experienced divorce attorney can not only help with the legal matters of divorce but also can provide referrals to appropriate grief counseling.
Addressing domestic violence a priority
Furthermore, experts and legal authorities warn us that if the family equation includes domestic violence, it must be addressed immediately. An attorney can be of immense help in this arena, from securing shelter to filing appropriate protective or restraining orders. Missouri has a wealth of domestic violence resources, including these online resources:
- from the Missouri Attorney General;
- statewide and local resources, from Legal Services of Missouri;
- University of Missouri, Extension service, "Domestic Violence and Divorce";
- The Missouri Bar, "Domestic Violence: A Practical Guide for Survivors";
- Representing Yourself in Missouri Courts: Access to Family Courts;
- A.A.R.D.V.A.R.K.'s "Missouri: Domestic Violence Resources" page.
Missouri discourages pro se appearances
Perhaps the first thing to know about Missouri law is that, yes, you may represent yourself in your divorce ("dissolution of marriage"). However, Missouri discourages self-representation and requires those who plan to represent themselves to attend a "Litigant Awareness Program":
This program is mandatory if you plan to represent yourself in a family law court case. The Litigant Awareness Program teaches you how the Missouri court system works and the risks and responsibilities of representing yourself in court.
You may also ask a lawyer to help you with part of your court case. Even if you have limited resources to pay a lawyer you still can receive help from a lawyer. Court rules now allow a lawyer to help people with certain specific tasks without handling the entire case. This is called limited scope representation.
FAQ, Self-Assessment Test & Court Staff Assistance pages
Also see the FAQ page, for more information and examples of interacting with court clerks. Another useful tool is the self-assessment test, which poses 18 revealing questions with only two choices for answers. After answering each one, you can "score" your aptitude for self-representation. The Court Staff Assistance page explains what clerks can and can not do in helping the public.
Grounds for divorce
Generally, Missouri is a no-fault state, requiring a finding only that the marriage is "irretrievably broken"; this can be attested by agreement of both parties, or if only party so attests, the court can make a ruling. However, behavior ("fault") can be considered in matters of child custody, spousal maintenance ("alimony"), or division of property issues.
County court info & other online resources
The County Information page provides contact information for the appropriate court; the case must be filed in either the county where the Petitioner (the "one who files the suit") or in the county where the Respondent lives; one of the parties must have been a resident of, or a military person stationed in, Missouri for at least 90 days. Thirty days must have passed since the filing of the petition before a court can grant dissolution. The Web site also provides other online resources.
We can help. If you're ready to begin the search for a compatible, well trained, experienced divorce attorney, you can start with our free case evaluation. If you need more information, please browse our site, using the tabs at the top of the page.