What does “no fault” divorce really mean in Missouri?

Misconduct can affect support awardsConduct does not impact grounds for divorce

There is sometimes a misconception that as Missouri is a “no-fault” state, misconduct during a marriage is not relevant. Missouri is a “no-fault” state, but the meaning of “no-fault” is that one only need prove that there is “no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and that therefore the marriage is irretrievably broken” in order for a divorce to be granted. One does not need to prove abandonment, adultery, abuse or any other specific form of misconduct in order for a dissolution of marriage to be granted.

Conduct can influence factors within the divorce

What “no-fault” does not mean is that conduct is irrelevant in the details of the asset division or spousal support award. The Missouri statutes specifically provide for consideration of “the conduct of the parties during the marriage” as a factor for the court to considering dividing the marital property and debts of the parties and in determining an appropriate maintenance award.

The practical impact of misconduct on the outcome of a divorce proceeding varies depending on the specific details, the nature of the misconduct, the extent that it was a burden on the marriage and the financial impact the misconduct had on the marriage. While the process of proving misconduct can add a substantial emotional and financial cost to litigation, the impact on the outcome is not always substantial, depending on the particular circumstances.

In short, in order to be granted a divorce you do not have to prove misconduct of your spouse but this does not mean that misconduct is always irrelevant in a divorce proceeding. If misconduct is an issue in your situation you should discuss the details and potential impact of the misconduct with your lawyer.