What are Missouri Divorce Records?
In Missouri, divorce records are referred to as vital or court records that are issued by the state for the purpose of documentation. A divorce record summarises details of divorce proceedings and how the divorce was finalized. There are 9.2 divorces per every 1,000 women above 15 years of age in Missouri. Unlike some other states where couples have to state justifiable reasons why they want a divorce, Missouri is a no-fault divorce state. This means that couples can file for a divorce without any tangible reason such as infidelity or cruelty. However, both parties must reveal that the marriage has deteriorated beyond repair and there are irreconcilable differences. In Missouri, a marriage may ends in any of these three ways:
- Dissolution of Marriage
- Legal Separation
- Separate Maintenance
Dissolution of marriage and legal separation both involve similar processes but a legal separation will not end the marriage. Some couples may decide to opt for a legal separation instead of a dissolution of marriage because of some reasons such as religion. In both a dissolution of marriage and a legal separation, the judge decides custody, property division, and financial support matters. In separate maintenance, just like a legal separation, the court does not end all legal bonds between parties. The difference between the two is that separate maintenance only allows the court to make orders involving alimony and child support.
A divorce is finalized when a judge signs a formal judgment which reflects the date the marriage ends. A divorce record is documented and maintained by the office of the Circuit Clerk of Court or the court’s records management office. A divorce takes a minimum of 30 days to be finalized in Missouri. The duration varies depending on the caseload of the court and the availability of judges to sign the final decree of dissolution.
Are Divorce Records Public in Missouri?
All court records, including divorce records, are open to public access in the state of Missouri. In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Missouri, the public is granted access to view and obtain copies of divorce records. Following the finalization of a divorce, the court will hand over the divorce records to the state for record-keeping and maintenance. Eligible persons may then access the divorce records after this.
However, divorce records that are sealed from public access by a court order may not be available to the public. Copies of unsealed divorce records may be obtained from the Circuit Clerk of Court in the county where the divorce was filed.
What are the types of Divorce Records available in Missouri?
Divorce decree and divorce certificate are the two types of certified divorce records provided in Missouri. A divorce record may be available in the form of a certified copy or an informational copy. A certified copy is a summary of divorce details that is issued on a security paper and embossed with an official seal. They are issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and can be used for identification and other legal purposes. Informational copies on the other hand may not be used for identification and legal purposes but are available to all members of the public.
A divorce decree is a document that is issued by the court indicating the final decree signed by a judge terminating a marriage. This copy expatiates on the terms and conditions of the divorce including child custody, the financial responsibilities, division of assets and debts, visitation, alimony, etc. A divorce decree is a certified divorce record that may only be accessed by the actual parties and the attorneys involved in the case.
A divorce certificate is a vital record maintained by the Bureau of Vital Records Missouri under the Department of Health and Senior Services. It is not as lengthy and detailed as a divorce decree and it only contains basic and limited information on the divorce action. The Information provided on a divorce certificate includes the names of the parties involved in the divorce, filing date, the county where the divorce was filed, and the court case number.
How Do I Get Divorce Records in Missouri?
Divorce records in Missouri may be obtained in various ways which vary from county to county. In most of these procedures, the court may require the submission of a completed application form or a written request indicating the names of each party, the year of the divorce, and the court case file number. Eligible persons may obtain the original copy of a divorce decree in any of the following ways:
- In-person request from the County Circuit Court Clerk at the court where the divorce was granted.
- Mail-in request to the Circuit Clerk in the county where the divorce was granted.
- Online request at County Courts that provide such service on their websites.
- View the electronic version of accessible divorce records at the public access station at the court where the divorce was granted.
To obtain divorce records, a requestor is required to pay $15 for the first copy and $15 for an additional copy if the requestor seeks to have more than one original copy. Additional charges may apply depending on the mode of request. For example, a rush request will cost higher than a regular request. A request form and a stamped envelope that is self-addressed may be required to complete a mail-in request.
Requesters can determine the precise location and contact address of the court in Missouri where divorce was granted by using the 'Find A Court' directory available on the Missouri courts website.
The Missouri Bureau of Vital Records under the Department of Health and Senior Services also provides copies of Missouri divorce records. Copies provided by the DHSS may not contain comprehensive information on the divorce, instead, it only provides a divorce certificate.
To request a copy, download and complete the application form on the website of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. You will need to fill in the name of the parties involved, the date of marriage and the date of divorce. A completed application form and check or money order for the search fee may be mailed to the address below;
Jefferson City Vital Record Lobby
930 Wildwood Drive
Jefferson City, MO 65109
In most cases, requests are processed, and mailed back to the requestor on a later date. To contact the customer service or schedule an in-person appointment, a requestor may call the Bureau of Vital Records in Jefferson City on 573–751–6387 or send an email to VitalRecordsInfo@health.mo.gov.
The Bureau of Vital Records provides records dated as far as July 1, 1948. Office hours is from Monday to Friday, between 9 am - 4 pm (excluding state and federal holidays).
While divorce and marriage records may be searched through government sources and organizations, the availability of these documents cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these entities are not government-sponsored therefore record availability may vary further. Also note that marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information the records contain, and are often sealed. Hence, bearing in mind that these factors determine the availability of any type of marriage or divorce record.
Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Missouri?
In Missouri, Informational copies of divorce records are available to the public and can be accessed by anyone who wishes to view the records. Certified divorce records such as divorce decree may only be accessed by specified persons which include;
- Persons involved in the divorce case
- Legal representative involved in the case.
Are Missouri Divorce Records available online?
The Missouri Bureau of Vital Records has maintained a central registry of Divorce records in the state since July 1948. Divorce records are also preserved by the Circuit Clerk of Court of each county courts where divorce proceedings were completed.
Some courts provide divorce records on the court case information portal of the local website. However, the divorce details provided on these portals are not comprehensive, this means it does not provide complete divorce records. Information such as the terms and conditions of the divorce and all other decisions made during the finalization of the divorce case may not be provided. Only information such as the case file number and date of divorce may be found.
Furthermore, courts in more populous counties like Springfield, may provide access to the divorce records online.
How Do I Seal My Divorce Records in Missouri?
To seal an available divorce record in Missouri, a court order is required. In the case of divorce records that are maintained by the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records under the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), individuals may send an appeal for the records to be sealed from public access. When an application is accepted, the judge will send a written order to the DHSS to restrict the divorce record from public access.
Obtaining an order to seal a divorce record in Missouri involves both parties providing clear explanations on how not sealing the records can negatively affect the children (if any), their reputation, career, finance, and any other relevant aspect. For example, if a divorce record contains sensitive information on the children involved, both parties may appeal for it to be sealed. When the judge approves the sealing of a record, the part of the record that contains confidential or private information that should not be disclosed may be sealed.