Divorce can happen for countless different reasons, but they all boil down to two basic types from a legal perspective: contested or uncontested. These distinctions revolve around the acceptable grounds for divorce in a specific state and whether a divorcing couple can reach agreeable terms. In an uncontested divorce, one spouse serves another with divorce papers and the recipient agrees without contest. In a contested divorce, one spouse will dispute some aspect of the proposed divorce agreement, and the case will proceed to court.
No-fault divorce laws like those of Missouri can appear helpful in some cases, allowing couples who recognize their marriages have failed to quickly sever legal ties with one another so they can move on with their lives. Typically, the longer a marriage lasts the more contested the eventual divorce will be.
How to Secure an Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce will proceed much faster than a contested one. There are two main methods of securing an uncontested divorce in Missouri: default petitioning, or joint petitioning. When a person files for divorce from their spouse, they become the petitioner, and the other spouse becomes a respondent. The petitioner will issue divorce papers to the respondent, and if the respondent fails to file a response or serve response papers to the petitioner, the court will consider the respondent in default.
With default petitioning, the court generally rules in favor of the petitioner’s declared divorce term. Additionally, Missouri law prohibits the collection of money from a spouse under a default judgment. Joint petitioning is rarer but much faster and more straightforward. If a couple can agree to divorce and meet with mutually agreeable divorce terms, they can jointly sign their divorce agreement and go in front of a judge to have it approved.
While an uncontested divorce sounds simple enough, the reality is that the divorcing couple must agree to absolutely everything pertaining to their divorce and negotiate all of the details between themselves. Unless a couple is in complete agreement about needing a divorce and jointly owns minimal property, an uncontested divorce can be more difficult to secure than you might assume.
Acceptable Grounds for Divorce in Missouri
Missouri upholds a no-fault rule when it comes to divorce. If a Columbia, MO couple decide they want a divorce due to irreconcilable differences or the irreparably broken nature of their marriage, they only need to provide this reason. It is not necessary for the petitioner to prove any wrongdoing on the other spouse’s part. A no-fault divorce simply means that both spouses agree for the divorce to happen, but no one party committed any wrongdoing that directly caused the marriage to break.
Handling a Contested Divorce
Contested divorces are far more common than uncontested divorces. It is exceedingly rare for a divorcing couple to come to completely agreeable terms about their divorce. A contested divorce will proceed through family court, during which both divorcing spouses will make their arguments for different benefits in the divorce agreement, such as child custody or ownership of the marital home.
Divorce can be emotionally charged, tense, and incredibly draining for everyone involved. If a contested divorce proceeds to a court case, it is imperative for both spouses to secure legal representation for themselves. It is very difficult for the average person to navigate the family court system on their own. Eventually, every contested divorce boils down to an uncontested divorce once the divorcing couple reaches agreement on the various aspects of their marriage’s ending.
Qualifying for Divorce in Missouri
Although Missouri is a no-fault divorce state, there are still several criteria a divorcing couple in Columbia, MO must meet to have their divorce agreement officially approved. First, at least one of the spouses must live in Missouri for 90 days or more immediately prior to filing the petition for divorce. One the petitioner files the Petition for Dissolution with the court, there will be a 30-day waiting period from the day the respondent receives the Petition before the divorce may be granted.
It’s also necessary to ensure proper delivery of the Petition for Dissolution to the respondent. A court process server must deliver a copy of the Petition for Dissolution. It is also possible to serve an Entry of Appearance and Waiver to serve as acknowledgment of receipt of the Petition. This can speed up the petition and response process by allowing the respondent to officially acknowledge receipt of the petition without needing a court process server.
Why Contest a Divorce Petition?
The number of different factors involved with the ending of a marriage directly correlates to how likely or unlikely it is for the original petition to be contested. In an ideal situation, the petition would include completely agreeable terms for both parties, which they would then sign and submit for approval. Divorce petitions are contested for many predictable reasons. First, spouses likely differ when it comes to how they view ownership and responsibility over their shared assets. They may also have differing opinions when it comes to child custody and support. It’s also possible for a petitioner to submit an extremely one-sided divorce petition for a number of possible reasons.
Missouri state laws make it fairly easy to get the divorce process started, but the reality is that any couple seeking divorce needs to approach the matter realistically. It is very unlikely that a divorcing couple will be able to reach mutually agreeable terms for a purely uncontested divorce, but a contested divorce will eventually become uncontested after extensive negotiation and thorough court proceedings.
How to Streamline Divorce
Ultimately, most divorces will be contested on some grounds, and many of these issues may resolve easily. However, this is not a certainty. The best step you can take toward streamlining the divorce process is to be as open and honest with your soon-to-be-ex as possible. Have frank discussions about the various elements of your divorce and try to reach mutually agreeable terms. This may be easier said than done in some cases, but the more you and your spouse can resolve on your own, the shorter the whole court process will be for your divorce.