Filing for Divorce in the State of Missouri
I read an interesting blog post earlier this week posted by a colleague whom I hold in high regard, although I disagree with her on this point. She answered the above question by saying, in part, that the dissolution of marriage action or divorce must be filed in the county where both people live or if they live in different counties, in either of those counties.
That answer is correct as far as it goes, but it is also true that if you meet the jurisdictional requirements to file for divorce in Missouri (essentially you are both residents of the state and have lived here for more than 90 days – with some exceptions that are beyond the scope of this article), you may file anywhere in the State so long as both of you agree.
Legal Grounds and Residential Requirements for a Missouri Divorce
Missouri is a no-fault divorce state. That means the one who files for divorce (petitioner) doesn’t have to prove that their spouse committed specific wrongdoing, such as adultery or abuse, to get a dissolution of marriage. However, this state have legal grounds for divorce: your marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.
If both spouses agree on all of the issues: dividing marital assets, allocation of responsibility for debt, spousal support, parenting time and child support, that would be an uncontested divorce. If there are any issues that are not agreed on, the divorce case will start as a contested divorce but the overwhelming percentage of cases that begin as contested are resolved without a trial.
Of course, to be able to file for divorce in Missouri at all, at least one of the spouses must have been a Missouri resident for at least 90 days before initiating the divorce process and the other spouse must have a significant connection to the state or agree for the divorce to occur in Missouri.
What Does the Law Say
Missouri law ( §452.300.5 RSMo.) states that a divorce procedure can be commenced in the county where either the petitioner or the respondent resides. If the proceeding started in the county where the petitioner lives, the case could be transferred to the county where the respondent lives if certain requirements are met.
Filing for Divorce in Another County
Now that case filings are available on the internet (case.net) as well as being published in legal newspapers that only a very small number of people read and paper case files on shelves open to the public no longer exist, the primary reason that people do not wish to file in their home county is to avoid contact with neighbors and friends when they are at the courthouse for court appearances.
I know that several years ago, the mother of one of my daughter’s friends saw me at the courthouse and was quite unnerved and upset. I did not see her but her attorney told me later that she asked in reference to me “what is she doing here” and her attorney replied, “she works here.” I had seen her husband in the courthouse earlier that day and simply greeted him and went on with my day.
Folks who are filing for divorce and have privacy concerns should talk to their attorney. I myself was living in St. Louis County when I filed for divorce, as was my ex-husband, but I filed in St. Charles County and he did not object, so the divorce was granted there.
Do You Need Help with Your Divorce?
If you have more questions about where you can file for divorce in Missouri or any other family law matters, please call our office (314-200-2252) to schedule a virtual, telephone, or in-person consultation.