Process of Service
After you file for divorce, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the petition. Missouri law then allows him 30 days to respond to your papers. If you don’t know where he is, this process will take up more time. You’ll have to petition the court for permission to serve him by publishing a notice in the newspaper. If you must take this route, your spouse has 45 days after the newspaper publishes notice of your divorce.
If your spouse doesn’t answer your petition, you can ask the court to enter default against him. This process can also take a month or more. Missouri requires that you file a default request with the court, then you must wait for the court to schedule a date for a hearing for “default and inquiry.” You can’t file for default until your spouse has had the required time to respond, either a month or 45 days.
Missouri has a waiting period for divorce of 30 days, starting on the day you file your petition. If everything goes smoothly, you might possibly be divorced 31 days after you file, but this is very unusual. Everything would have to happen at a rapid pace, and you and your spouse would need to already have an agreement in place regarding your property and your children at the time you file your petition. If you serve your petition on your spouse the same day you file it, you can immediately schedule a hearing with the court on the 31st day, after the waiting period and his time to respond has expired.
If you don’t reach an agreement with your spouse before you file your petition, you can use Missouri’s 30-day waiting period to negotiate one. If your divorce is amicable, you’re in accord regarding custody and you're not battling over who gets to keep the dog, you can schedule a hearing after the waiting period and be divorced as soon as you can submit your agreement to the court. Depending on how smoothly your negotiations go, you can conceivably receive this type of uncontested divorce within two to eight months after you file.
If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement and must go to trial, a minimum of a year will probably pass before your divorce is final. A Missouri court won’t rule on your divorce until you or your attorney has documented all marital assets and debts. This requires a period of discovery before you can schedule a trial with the court. Depending on your finances, this might take months, although you can continue working toward a settlement while you’re in the discovery phase. If you or your spouse don’t like the judge’s opinion and you appeal, this process can require another year.