What the Divorce Process Looks Like and FAQs

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Are you considering a divorce in St. Louis County, Missouri? The divorce process can be emotionally challenging and legally complex, especially for high-net-worth individuals, such as business owners or those with significant assets, who may face unique challenges as they unwind their marriages. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the steps involved in filing for divorce in St. Louis County and answer some frequently asked questions to help you understand what to expect throughout the process.

The Divorce Process in St. Louis County, Missouri

Divorce laws in Missouri guide the process of dissolving a marriage. Here’s what you can expect during your divorce.

To file for divorce in St. Louis County, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of Missouri for at least 90 days prior to filing the petition for dissolution of marriage.

The divorce process officially begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage with the St. Louis County Circuit Court. This legal paperwork outlines the grounds for the divorce and the petitioner’s desired outcomes regarding issues such as property division, spousal support, and child custody (if applicable).

After filing their divorce petitions, the petitioner must “serve” the other spouse (the respondent) with a copy of the divorce papers. This can be done through personal service by a sheriff or private process server. You may also serve your spouse by certified mail with a return receipt requested under certain circumstances.

Once served, the respondent has 30 days to file an Answer to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In the answer, the respondent can agree with the petitioner’s requests or contest certain aspects of the divorce, such as property division or spousal support.

During the discovery phase, both parties exchange relevant information and documents, such as financial records and asset disclosures. This helps establish a clear picture of the marital estate and enables fair negotiations. Many divorce cases are settled out of court through negotiations between the parties and their attorneys.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement on all issues, the case will proceed to trial. During the trial, both sides present evidence and arguments to support their positions. The judge will then make a final decision on any unresolved matters.

Once all issues are settled, either through negotiation or trial, the court will issue a Final Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This legally binding document outlines the terms of the divorce, including property division, spousal support, and child custody arrangements (if applicable).

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below, you’ll find the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about divorce in St. Louis County.

The length of the divorce process varies depending on the complexity of the case and whether it is contested. An uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on all issues, can be finalized in as little as 30–90 days. A contested divorce that goes through the court system may take several months to a year or more to resolve.

Missouri is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that neither party must prove wrongdoing to obtain a divorce. The most common grounds for divorce are that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” and there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.

Missouri follows the principles of “equitable distribution” when dividing marital property. This means that the court will divide assets in a manner that is fair and just, but not necessarily equal. Factors considered include the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of assets, and the economic circumstances of each party.

No, spousal support is not automatic. The court will consider various factors when determining whether to award spousal support, such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, and the standard of living established during the marriage.

While you are not legally obligated to hire an attorney for your marriage dissolution, it is highly recommended, especially for high-net-worth individuals or those with complex assets. An experienced St. Louis County divorce attorney can protect your rights and assets, advocate for your interests, and guide you through the legal process.

An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree on all aspects of the divorce, including property division, spousal support, and child custody (if applicable). A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one in which the parties cannot reach an agreement on one or more issues, and the case must be resolved through the court system.

When determining child custody, the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. Factors considered include the child’s relationship with each parent, the mental and physical health of all parties involved, and each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment. In many cases, the court favors joint custody arrangements that allow the child to maintain a relationship with both parents.

In some cases, yes. If there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the divorce was finalized, such as a significant change in income or the needs of a child, you may be able to request a modification of the divorce decree. This can include modifications to child custody, child support, and spousal support orders.

Dividing business assets in a divorce can be complex, especially for high-net-worth individuals. The court will consider factors such as each spouse’s contribution to the business, the value of the business, and the potential impact of dividing the business on its operations. In some cases, one spouse may buy out the other’s interest in the business, or the business may be sold, and the proceeds divided between the parties.

A forensic accountant is a financial expert who can uncover hidden assets, assess the value of complex financial holdings, and provide expert testimony in court. In high-net-worth divorce cases, a forensic accountant can be invaluable in ensuring that all assets are properly accounted for and that the division of property is fair and equitable.

Contact a St. Louis County Divorce Lawyer Today

Divorce is rarely easy, but understanding the process and having knowledgeable legal counsel can make it more manageable. If you are a resident of St. Louis County, Missouri, and are considering filing for divorce, the attorneys at Grant, Miller & Smith, LLC, are here to help. Our team has extensive experience handling complex, high-net-worth divorce cases in communities such as Ladue, Wildwood, and Chesterfield.

We understand the unique challenges that business owners and other high-net-worth individuals face during a divorce, and we are committed to protecting your assets and pursuing the best possible outcome for your case. To discuss your situation and learn more about how we can assist you, please contact Grant, Miller & Smith, LLC, at (314) 721-6677 to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled divorce attorneys.