Dissolution of Marriage

Missouri law now refers to a divorce case as an action for “dissolution of marriage”.
Marriage is a legal contract of sorts which must be formally dissolved by a Court of
law. Missouri is a ‘no fault’ divorce state and therefore a person does not have to prove
that his/her spouse is ‘at fault’ in order to seek a divorce. A person merely needs to
allege that irreconcilable differences have arisen such that they believe the marriage
is ‘irretrievably broken’. Divorces can be either a non contested divorce or a contested

Non-Contested Divorce

A non-contested divorce can either result from the parties agreeing to resolve and settle
all matters of their case from the beginning or from the parties agreeing at some point
during the case. If the parties have reached an agreement from the outset, it is a fairly
simply legal procedure of preparing the settlement documents and submitting them to the
Court for approval. A court merely reviews to ensure the proper documents have been
filed and that the agreement is fair and reasonable to both parties. A written agreement
(often called a ‘Separation Agreement’) between the parties is drafted which addresses
and disposes of all issues.

Contested Divorce

Sometimes, a couple is not able to agree on one or all of the issues in their case, and
therefore it must be presented at trial to a Judge for determination. This presentation
is the same format as any lawsuit, involving witness testimony, exhibit evidence and
argument by the lawyers. The Court will consider all relevant evidence in arriving at a
determination which must be equitable and in the best interest of the children involved.
This process is referred to as a contested divorce.

Duration of Divorce

Generally, a non-contested case may last for two to six months, while a contested
case can last much longer. There are no restrictions on when a case may change from
contested to non-contested, and vice versa.

Four Main Issues involved

There are four main issues in any dissolution of marriage which are determined
separately based upon various factors. They are as follows:

1. Child Custody
2. Child Support
3. Maintenance (formally called alimony)
4. Division of Property and Debts

Divorce Court Procedures