Missouri Court Records
The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Missouri
Missouri law outlines two ways of ending a marriage, dissolution (referred to as divorce in other states) and annulment. Both legal processes terminate a marriage and render both spouses free to marry again. Dissolution and annulment, while similar, are different processes. Dissolution is a termination of marriage bonds before the law, while annulment is the declaration of marriage as void by the court. An annulment declares a marriage that is not a recognizable union before the law as invalid and nullifies all marriage commitments.
The Missouri Judicial Authority is the legally recognized entity empowered to dissolve or annul marriages. This function is handled by the Family Court, a section of the Circuit Court, which handles all domestic-related matters, including dissolutions and annulments.
What is a Missouri Divorce Decree?
A decree of dissolution of marriage (divorce decree) is a document issued by the court at the end of the dissolution process. It is a legal document signed by a judge containing all the agreements and court assignments made during a dissolution case, including child support, alimony, custody, visitation, property, and debt division. MO Rev Stats § 452.300 (6)outlines that the judgment of a dissolution case shall include a decree to be issued to both parties.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What is an Annulment in Missouri?
An annulment is the invalidation of marriage according to MO Rev Stats 451.020,.022,.030. Marriages between relations such as parents and children, brothers and sisters, aunts and nephews, uncles and nieces, grandparents and grandchildren, and between first cousins go through the annulment process. This also includes marriages in which one of the persons wed possessed a living spouse at the time of marriage. Other grounds include marriage to a person not mentally capable of entering a marriage contract, a marriage to a minor without the parents’ consent or court order, and a marriage entered into under duress or fraud. The court gives an annulment following a filing at the Family Court. The annulment renders a marriage contract void and proclaims both parties as never married.
Annulment vs Divorce in Missouri
An annulment and a dissolution bear a similarity in that both terminate a marriage, and each spouse is free to remarry. However, both processes are different. An annulment invalidates a marriage established on conditions unrecognizable under Missouri law, while a dissolution ends a legal marriage. An annulment declares a marriage as never existent while a dissolution ends an existing marriage, but the marriage is still recognized as having existed.
Both legal processes involve filing a petition in court by submitting an application form. In the case of an annulment, the court examines the case and determines if the marriage is constitutional under Missouri law, and if not, the marriage is invalid. A petition for dissolution is filed in a Circuit Court, and the other party will receive a copy of the petition. If the dissolution is uncontested, both parties will reach an agreement, written and submitted to the court. If one of the parties contests the dissolution, the process can extend to other activities such as mediation or a court trial.
Specific conditions define eligibility for a marriage annulment in Missouri, including;
- Bigamy (if one spouse was currently married when the other marriage contract is entered into).
- The existence of a familial relationship between the two spouses.
- A lack of one spouse’s mental capacity to enter a marriage contract.
- A marriage involving an underage individual who did not have the parent’s consent or a court order to get married.
- A marriage entered into under duress or fraud.
Missouri possesses a residency law that married couples must observe before becoming eligible to file for a dissolution in Missouri. The residency law requires that at least one of the spouses lives in Missouri for a minimum of 90 days. Missouri permits a no-faults grounds dissolution for which there is no need to prove the other spouse’s fault before the court. However, dissolution is possible if one of the spouses believes that the marriage is irrevocably broken and both parties can no longer co-exist.
Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Missouri?
An annulment is usually cheaper than dissolution in Missouri, as an annulment is generally less complicated than a dissolution. Dissolution can also be cheap if neither party contests the dissolution, and there are no assets or children in the marriage. Dissolutions that have assets, children, or both parties do not agree can become costly in court fees and attorney fees, especially if the case goes to trial.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Missouri?
An uncontested dissolution is when no party disputes any of the conditions set in the agreement drawn up between both parties. This includes conditions such as child support, property division, alimony (called maintenance in Missouri), debt payment, visitation, and the payment of attorney fees. Both parties settle themselves without the intervention of the court.
Where to Get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Missouri
A Petition for Dissolution form is available on the Circuit Court’s website. The form is to be completed and filed at the court, and the other spouse is to receive a copy. The other spouse will reply and send the response to the court through The Respondent’s Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form. In the answer, the other spouse can dispute some statement in the petition, but if there is no dispute, the dissolution will move on uncontested. Both parties will need to submit all financial information to the court by obtaining and filling the application form on the court’s webpage. A parenting plan will need to be drawn up by both parties to handle matters such as child visitation and custody. Other matters such as debt payment, attorney fees, and property division are weighed in. If no spouse raises any dispute about any aspect of the dissolution, the agreement is submitted to a judge for approval before the process is finalized.
The provisions of MO Rev Stats § 452.430 declares all dissolution records as confidential and accessible only to the parties involved and the attorneys of either party. The public can only view a dissolution record if all the pleadings and filings in the case were made 72 years before the request for inspection. This makes records of only divorces that have been concluded over 72 years ago accessible to the public.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How Do I Get a Copy of my Divorce Decree in Missouri?
A certified copy of a divorce decree is accessible from the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court at which the dissolution was filed. Due to the confidentiality of divorce records, only the parties involved in the dissolution and the respective attorneys can pick up a dissolution record. Eligible persons must provide proof of identity to the clerk to access the decree.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Do I Get a Missouri Divorce Decree Online?
A divorce decree is not accessible online in Missouri. Interested individuals can visit the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court to obtain a divorce decree.