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Understanding Divorce Decrees in Missouri

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

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

Guidelines for Filing a Divorce Decree

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

In Missouri, there is a mandatory 30-day cooling-off period between the filing of the petition and the granting of 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.

What Happens at the Final Decree?

In the decree, or judgment, of dissolution of marriage, the court can provide for child custody and support, maintenance, otherwise known as 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 conduct their lives as unmarried individuals.

However, both spouses are required to 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 given the opportunity to submit their own 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?

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

It is not an easy feat 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.

Contact a Chesterfield Divorce Attorney

If you've filed a divorce decree or received one from your spouse, it is highly recommended that you hire an experienced divorce lawyer who can best represent your interests. 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 make sure your interests are protected. Call us today at (636) 552-4841 for a free initialconsultation!