There are seemingly innumerable reasons as to why a person in an unhappy marriage might feel unable to move forward with a divorce. Perhaps they want to take more time to think things over, try marital counseling or even just wait until their children are in the best possible position to deal with the news.
While this reluctance is understandable, there is at least one reason that should never unduly delay a person from starting a new chapter in their lives: believing that they have to prove fault on the part of their spouse.
It isn't necessary to prove fault in order to secure a divorce?
Missouri is a no-fault state, meaning there isn't a need to have grounds for a divorce. In other words, it's unnecessary to demonstrate that a soon-to-be ex was to blame for the marriage coming to an end.
Indeed, the only thing a spouse has to claim under state law is that there is no possibility of their marriage being preserved and that it is therefore "irretrievably broken."
What if my spouse denies that our marriage is irretrievably broken?
In the event a spouse decides to contest the divorce and deny that the marriage is irretrievably broken, it will be necessary for the spouse seeking the divorce to demonstrate any one of the following:
- The other spouse has committed adultery and is intolerable to live with
- The other spouse has behaved in such a manner that they are intolerable to live with
- The other spouse abandoned you for six consecutive months prior to filing for divorce
- Both spouses have agreed to live apart and have done so for a minimum of 12 consecutive months prior to filing the divorce petition
- Both spouses have lived apart for a minimum of 24 months consecutive months prior to filing the divorce petition
In the event the court finds that the marriage is not irretrievably broken, a legal separation will be granted.
Does this mean the spouse can't secure a divorce?
No. Both sides will have the option of filing what is known as Motion to Convert, meaning convert the legal separation to a divorce, once 90 days have passed since the initial decision to grant the legal separation.
Are there any contexts in which fault is considered?
Martial fault -- infidelity, waste of assets, running up debt, etc. -- can arise in the context of divorce-related issues like alimony and property division.
We'll continue this discussion in future posts. In the meantime, if you have questions about the divorce process here in Missouri, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.