Understanding Divorce Decrees in Missouri

divorce decree
In Missouri, a divorce decree is the court order and written document granting the dissolution of a legal marriage. “Dissolution of marriage” is Missouri's preferred legal term for divorce.

Missouri divorce laws provide that a divorce judgment encompasses a decree that the judge issues about the maintenance (alimony), child custody, child support, and disposition of property in the divorce. The wife or husband may file a petition to dissolve the marriage with the circuit court.

Requirements for Filing a Divorce Decree in Missouri

Missouri is a no-fault divorce state meaning that neither spouse has to allege or prove a cause such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment as the reason for seeking the divorce. The spouse who files for divorce only needs to assert that the union is irreconcilably broken and there is no reasonable likelihood the marriage can be preserved.

For the Missouri court to hear the divorce case, one of the spouses must be a state resident for at least 90 days immediately preceding the petition filing.

Missouri has a mandatory 30-day cooling-off period between filing the petition and granting a dissolution of marriage judgment. Also, the court must be notified if the wife is pregnant, and the divorce may be delayed until the baby is born. If there is a question of paternity, the court may order a paternity test.

When is a Judgment Finalized for the Final Decree?

In the decree, or judgment, of dissolution of marriage, the court can provide child custody and support, maintenance, or alimony for either spouse and the disposition of property. The decree may grant the wife the right to resume her maiden or former name.

The dissolution of marriage is final the day the judge signs the judgment of dissolution, and the judgment of dissolution is filed with the court. Once the divorce is final, unless a timely post-trial motion or appeal is filed, both spouses are legally permitted to live unmarried.

However, both spouses must comply with the terms of the divorce decree, including terms regarding child custody and visitation, maintenance, and division of personal and real property.

Can I Appeal a Divorce Judgment?

If one or both spouses disagree with the final judgment, an appeal can be filed to a higher court. Appeals are generally filed by the spouse that feels they received an unfavorable ruling. To appeal a divorce judgment, the attorney must submit a brief arguing that the trial judge didn't correctly apply the law when making their decision. The attorney for the opposing party will then be allowed to submit their brief arguing in favor of the original ruling. The court may also entertain oral arguments from both attorneys, but it is not required by law.

Unfortunately, most appellate courts do not overturn the initial divorce judgment. In the case of a divorce settlement, the judgment cannot usually be appealed. This is because the judgment was mutually agreed upon and finalized before the judge.

Can I Modify a Divorce Judgment?

Suppose there has been a substantial and continuing change of circumstances since the judgment of the dissolution of marriage. In that case, a party may be able to modify the terms of child custody, child support, or maintenance.

It is not easy to move the court to modify the terms of a judgment, and the petitioning party will have to pay court costs and possible attorney fees. Before initiating this action, there must be a substantial and continuing change in circumstances to warrant the court entering a modification judgment. Situations that may qualify as significant changes include:

  • Job loss or slowdown;
  • A child starting college soon;
  • Increase in one or more child’s living expenses; or
  • Serious illness and increased medical expenses for either parent or a child.

File for divorce with the help of our Chesterfield Divorce Attorney

If you've filed a divorce decree or received one from your spouse, hiring an experienced divorce lawyer who can best represent your interests is highly recommended.

Missouri divorce law is complicated, and since it is very difficult to appeal or modify a divorce judgment after the fact, you need to ensure a favorable outcome from the start.

At Galmiche Law Firm, PC, our accomplished attorneys have been practicing family law for over 30 years. We have the trial experience you need to protect your interests. Call us today at (636) 552-4841 for a free initial consultation!

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