The legal process of ending a marriage has the potential to be just as complex and frustrating as the emotional process. However, the divorce process can be handled in several ways and does not always need to be resolved through contentious court battles. Many divorces are resolved out of court through collaborative divorce or divorce mediation with an experienced Columbia divorce attorney’s assistance.

If you are beginning the process of divorce, you may not be sure what the right option is to resolve your divorce. Understanding the types, advantages, and disadvantages of the divorce process can be very helpful.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorces

Spouses in Missouri can either file a contested or uncontested divorce. The main difference between uncontested and contested divorces is whether spouses agree on the divorce and the aspects of a divorce agreement.

  • Uncontested Divorce

    In an uncontested divorce, spouses are in agreement on the specifics of their divorce, including spousal support, property division, and a parenting plan. Uncontested divorces also refer to spouses who are willing to negotiate and find a solution they can agree on, even if they don’t agree on all aspects to begin with.

    Uncontested divorces are handled through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The final separation agreement must be approved by a family court judge, but the terms are determined by the spouses.

  • Contested Divorce

    In a contested divorce, spouses cannot agree on the terms of a separation agreement. In some contested divorces, one party does not even agree they should be getting a divorce. A contested divorce must typically be resolved in court litigation. The final separation agreement is made by the family court judge.

Spouses may end up going through the process of an uncontested and contested divorce during their divorce. Some spouses may think they can resolve their disagreements in an uncontested divorce but find they can’t reach a fair and complete separation agreement. Spouses may also be able to reach a compromise for some aspects of their divorce agreement but require court judgment on other aspects.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Litigation

Getting a divorce through court is often significantly more expensive than going through ADR. Litigation involves court costs and higher attorney fees. Litigation is also much more time-consuming than out-of-court divorce. Litigation relies on the court’s availability and when they can hear your divorce case. Because the process is likely to take longer, this also makes it expensive.

Obtaining a divorce through litigation is also more stressful. Court proceedings can be overwhelming and public, while ADR can provide more privacy. The judge also has the final say in your divorce, which can impact a lot of the rest of your life, and this can also be stressful. Though you can make arguments for your interests, the judge may view your case differently.

However, litigation can be necessary for some divorces. If one spouse is being deliberately uncooperative or trying to draw out the process of a divorce, ADR is likely not going to be useful. Eventually, the judge on the divorce case will reach a final conclusion, so a spouse cannot draw out a litigious divorce forever.

Any divorce where spouses refuse to speak to each other cannot be handled through ADR. Divorces that involve physical, emotional, or financial abuse are also frequently better to resolve in court. This often enables victims of abuse to better protect their own rights.


Q: How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Missouri?

A: A contested divorce may take anywhere from several months to more than a year or several years. The amount of time a contested divorce takes depends on the individual divorce case and how complicated it is. Divorces with high-value assets, contentious discussions, or abuse allegations will take longer to resolve.

A contested divorce that is managed through court may take even longer than when an agreement is reached out of court. However, if a spouse is purposefully drawing out negotiations, taking the case to court may ensure a resolution.

Q: Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer in Missouri?

A: While you are not required to have legal representation when filing and negotiating a divorce, it is important to protect your personal and legal interests. Whether you are settling your divorce outside or inside of court, an attorney can protect your rights and advocate for your needs in the separation agreement.

Court can be overwhelming without an attorney, but negotiations are also stressful without legal care. If you and your spouse have a contentious relationship, an attorney can ensure you are not taken advantage of in your separation agreement. Even amicable negotiations are made faster and easier with a lawyer.

Q: Is Missouri a 50-50 State When it Comes to Divorce?

A: No, Missouri is not a 50-50 property division state but instead is an equitable distribution state. Instead of all assets being divided equally between divorcing spouses, assets are divided according to what the court determines to be fair. This division may end up being 50-50, but it doesn’t need to be.

The court looks at the length of the marriage, the age and income of each spouse, the separate assets of each spouse, each spouse’s contributions to marital property, and other factors to determine what is fair.

Q: Can You Get Divorced Without Going to Court in Missouri?

A: Yes, you can get a divorce out of court. Alternative dispute resolutions (ADR), such as collaborative divorces and divorce mediation, exist to help spouses find an agreeable solution for their separation agreement. ADR is not for every divorce, but it is often a faster, less expensive, and less stressful option for couples.

ADR can be helpful for spouses getting a contested or uncontested divorce. Although more common for uncontested divorces, even contested divorces could be settled out of court.

Q: Do You Need a Reason for Divorce in Missouri?

A: No, you do not need a reason for a divorce other than the grounds of an irretrievably broken marriage. This is because Missouri is a no-fault divorce state. You can’t file on fault-based grounds in the state. Actions such as abuse, adultery, or other marital misconduct may impact the divorce in other ways, but they cannot be listed as a reason for filing the divorce.

Contact Stange Law Firm

A qualified attorney with Stange Law Firm can review the legal options you have for divorce. Contact our firm today to learn how we can help.