Missouri courts issue divorce decrees that address issues such as child custody, property division, alimony and child support, as well as dissolving the couple’s marriage. Though couples can reach their own agreement on these issues, the court uses Missouri law to make decisions for couples who cannot.
Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, which means Missouri courts do not consider fault when dissolving a marriage. Instead, a spouse must simply allege that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” such that there is no likelihood the marriage can be preserved. This removes the traditional requirement that one spouse prove fault on the part of the other spouse, such as adultery or cruelty, to obtain a divorce. However, the court may consider fault when deciding other aspects of the divorce, such as alimony.
If spouses cannot agree, Missouri courts divide marital property “equitably” between the spouses in a fair and just manner, but not necessarily equally. Marital property includes property acquired by either spouse during the marriage except certain types of property such as gifts and inheritances. Courts use various factors to determine what property settlement is appropriate in each case, including each spouse's economic circumstances, the contributions of each spouse, the conduct of the spouses and the value of each spouse’s nonmarital property.
Parents must file a proposed parenting plan, addressing such topics as custody, visitation, vacations and transportation of the child. If the parents cannot agree, Missouri courts will determine custody based on the child’s best interests. The court considers factors including the wishes of the parents and their proposed parenting plan, the child’s adjustment to his home, school and community, the mental and physical health of the child and parents and the parents’ intent to relocate.
Missouri courts can award alimony, called spousal maintenance, to either spouse, but alimony is not automatic. Typically, alimony is awarded when one spouse earns significantly more than the other such that one spouse cannot adequately support herself. Alimony can be temporary or permanent, and courts decide how much to award based on factors such as the financial resources of the receiving spouse, the time the receiving spouse may need to increase his job skills, the length of the marriage and how both spouses behaved during the marriage.