When couples are considering ending their marriage, one of the questions that often comes up is how long will the divorce take? A related question is, how fast can I get divorced in Missouri?
The minimum amount of time it takes to get divorced in Missouri is 30 days. Missouri law requires that at least one party has been a resident of Missouri for 90 days, and 30 days must pass between the filing of the divorce petition and final judgment. This is essentially a cooling off period to prevent rash decisions.
As we all know, what the rule says and what actually happens can be two different things. Can you get divorced faster than 30 days in Missouri? No. Can it take longer than 30 days? Absolutely. Many cases take 6 months to a year, and some even longer. How quickly or slowly your divorce happens depends on a few things.
Are there contested issues in the case?
The absolute fastest way to get divorced is if the parties agree to the terms of the divorce before it is ever filed. This is commonly referred to as an “Uncontested Divorce,” (although the most accurate way to describe it is actually a divorce by agreement). In an uncontested divorce, the parties work out the terms of their agreement either by talking to each other directly or with the help of a marriage and family therapist or family mediator. The key is to fully resolve the issues in detail so that a final settlement agreement is signed and ready to file from the same moment the divorce is filed with the court. Here is a handy checklist of the issues that need to be resolved to have an uncontested divorce. Having all your issues negotiated and agreed on before the case is filed means that your divorce can be signed by a judge as soon as the 30 has passed. If your case is filed as a contested matter, the more issues there are the longer the case is likely to take before it is concluded. Litigants in a contested case are often surprised and frustrated by repetitive seeming court dates and waiting as the lawyers conduct discovery and try to resolve the issues.
Do you have the right attorney helping you?
A good family attorney knows how to shepherd the divorce, particularly an uncontested one, through the process as quickly as possible. That said, not all family attorneys practice the same way or with the same focus. While any legitimate family attorney should be able to competently handle an uncontested divorce, some will be able to do it faster than others. For example, a lawyer who focuses on hotly contested divorce cases may not have time to work on your case right away because they are busy with court appearances for existing cases. Look for an attorney that focuses on amicable divorces, including uncontested divorce, as they are more likely to be prepared to handle your case efficiently.
What court and judge is your case in front of?
The Missouri county your divorce is filed in, and which judge the case is assigned to, can have a big impact on how fast your case is resolved, even if it is uncontested. Some courts and judges simply operate faster than others. A seasoned family attorney will know how the courts in your area operate so you can be realistic. This is one reason (of many) it is a good idea to hire an attorney to assist you, even with a simple uncontested case.
Will the court want a hearing?
Assuming your case is filed as uncontested, you may have to have a hearing before the judge will sign off on your settlement agreement. This can be a county to county policy. Some courts just won’t conclude the case without the parties coming in to court to for a final hearing. However, most counties will permit the parties to submit a sworn written statement asking the court to review and approve the settlement agreement and enter a divorce judgment. Even if a judge would normally permit the matter to conclude without a hearing, there are some triggers that might cause one anyway. If neither party is represented by an attorney there will probably be a final hearing. If the agreement seems very one-sided or otherwise unusual, such as if one parent is completely cut out of the children’s lives, the judge may also want the matter set for a hearing. If a hearing needs to be conducted, this may add several weeks depending on the court’s schedule.
These are just some of the factors that can influence the time it takes to conclude a divorce in Missouri. It is worthwhile to work with an uncontested divorce attorney to make sure your case goes quickly and smoothly.