How to handle your own uncontested divorce in Missouri

How to handle your own uncontested divorce in Missouri

You don’t have to hire an attorney to file for an uncontested divorce in Missouri. If you file your divorce without an attorney, you are considered pro se (pronounced pro say). The State of Missouri set up very specific forms that you need to use if you intend to file an uncontested divorce on your own. You can find the forms by visiting www.selfrepresent.mo.gov.  The forms are designed for uncontested divorces, meaning both parties agree all issues regarding property and debt division and, if relevant, child support, custody and visitation. Here are the steps to be aware of if you decide you want a DIY divorce:

  • As the website indicates, you must complete a two-step Litigant Awareness Program and file the certificate of completion with the Court. The steps for completing this program are clearly stated on the website.
  • You must fully complete all the following forms:
    1. Petition for Dissolution of Marriage- this is required in all divorces. It specifies the basis for seeking a divorce, which is simply that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and that there is no “reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” It also includes specific family data. It must be signed by one spouse under oath before a notary.
    2. Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage- this will be issued by the clerk’s office to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services once your divorce is finalized to show proof that your marriage has ended.
    3. Statement of Income and Expenses
    4. Statement of Property and Debt and Proposed Separation Agreement
    5. Filing Information Sheet- this is required by the court to enter information about your case into the court’s system.
    6. If you have children, Parenting Plan, Parts A and B- this document will detail a schedule of when each parent will have the children in his or her care (called “physical custody”), it will detail decision-making rights and responsibilities (called “legal custody”), and it will detail how the parents will handle expenses of the children.
    7. If you spouse agrees¸ Respondent’s Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage- a petition requires a formal response called an “answer.” The answer is due within 30 days from the date the petition is served, and it admits or denies each paragraph of the petition. If an Answer is not filed, the case will be considered a “default” divorce. In a default divorce, the procedure is very similar, but only the Petitioner is involved.
  • Where to File: in general, you need to file the documents in person in the county where you live or in the county where your spouse lives. Make two copies of all the documents. Give the originals to the clerk’s office, provide one copy to your spouse, and keep one copy for your records.
    1. Giving copies to your spouse: you must provide your spouse with official notice of the documents you are filing. This is called service. The Petition must be officially served. Standard procedure is for a sheriff to hand deliver the petition. The pro se paperwork has a form that your spouse can sign that waives this requirement and accepts service. The other documents do not need to be formally served, but you must designate that the bottom of each document how you are providing these copies to your spouse, which can be in person, by mail, or by email. You must sign to certify that a copy of each document you file is provided to your spouse.
    2. You need to pay the filing fee. The filing fee in Boone County for a divorce is currently $132.00 if your spouse signs the waiver of service and $162.00 if you need to pay for the sheriff to service your spouse with the Petition.
  • The waiting game: Your Petition must be on file for 30 days before the court can grant your divorce. After the expiration of 30 days, you can contact the clerk about having your case set for a trial. If you have children, you must attend a parental education class before your case can be finalized. Your county clerk will have information about the required class and how to register.
  • The hearing: You will need to set your case for an uncontested hearing in front of a family court judge before the judge will sign off on the order of divorce. The clerk’s office will assist you in scheduling the hearing. You will need to provide notice of the hearing date to your spouse. Some counties will provide you with a script to read to the judge when you testify. The following sample testimony provides a general guideline for divorce testimony:
  • Your Honor, my name is _____________________ and I am the Petitioner in this case.
  • I reside at (your physical address).
  • My spouse’s name is ________________________. He/she lives at (your spouse’s physical address).
  • We were married on ____/____/____.
  • If you or your spouse wants a name change: Prior to our marriage, my/my wife’s last name was _______________.
  • I filed for divorce on ______________(date of filing).
  • Regarding residency requirements: I have/my spouse has lived in (filing state) for ____ years/months and (filing county) for ____ years/months.
  • My marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no possibility that my marriage can be preserved.
  • My spouse and I have ___ minor or legally dependent children. (Be prepared to state the name, date of birth, and age of each child.)
  • I/my Wife is/am not currently pregnant.
  • My spouse and I have signed a written agreement that states our agreement as to all matters regarding the support and custody of the minor children as well as division of our property and debts.
  • We are requesting that I/my spouse be ordered to pay child support in the amount of $___________ per month beginning (date).
  • We are requesting that (sole or joint) legal custody and (sole or joint) physical custody of our children be (with me/with my spouse/joint).
  • If one spouse will be receiving maintenance payments (formerly called alimony), explain the terms, or in the alternative, state that neither spouse will receive support.
  • That is all I have, Your Honor.
  1. Final Steps. Assuming you have filed everything correctly and the judge is satisfied with your evidence, the judge will sign off on your Judgment. You will need certified copies of the Judgment if you intend to change insurance coverage, beneficiary designations or your name. You may also need a certified copy to change over car titles. If you have agreed to divide a retirement account, you should contact the account administrator to determine what paperwork is needed.