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Cost of Divorce in Missouri

How much is a divorce in Missouri? We breakdown the factors that affect the cost of divorce in Missouri in this comprehensive article.

evident Editorial Team
published
November 27, 2023
St. Louis arch, skyline

For people getting divorced in Missouri, a question that is often top of mind is, "How much is a divorce in Missouri?" 

Uncertainty surrounding the cost of divorce can be a major source of stress for many individuals dealing with an already stressful process.

Although it’s difficult to give a precise cost estimate, there are factors that most commonly influence divorce costs in Missouri. Understanding what these factors are and how they impact overall costs can alleviate some of the stress and anxiety associated with getting divorced in Missouri.

In this article, we will:

  • Share data on the average cost of divorce in Missouri
  • Explain the key factors that impact the overall costs
  • Provide lower-cost divorce resources for individuals who may have financial constraints and cannot afford a Missouri divorce attorney.

Let’s start by looking at average divorce costs in the state.

Key Takeaways

The Average Cost of Divorce in Missouri

So, what is the average cost of a divorce in Missouri? The average cost of a divorce in Missouri is around $13,500 for cases without children and approximately $20,200 for divorces involving children, according to USA Today

But every divorce is unique, so the actual cost of a divorce in Missouri could be substantially higher or lower than these averages depending on the circumstances.

It's crucial to understand what factors influence the total cost of a divorce to better understand how expensive your divorce might be. 

What affects the cost of divorce in Missouri?

So, how much does a divorce cost in Missouri? Key factors that affect how expensive a Missouri divorce will be include:

  • Filing fees and court costs
  • Attorneys’ fees
  • How complicated your divorce is
  • How contentious your divorce is

Let’s start by looking at some of the concrete numbers affecting Missouri divorce costs.

Missouri Divorce Filing Fees and Court Costs

Missouri divorce filing fees can vary by county and sometimes based on whether there are minor children involved. The average filing fee ranges from around $130 to over $200.

For instance, here are Missouri divorce filing fees for a few different counties:

  • Jefferson County - the filing fee for “Dissolution (no children)” is $130.50 and for “Dissolution (w/ children)” is $230.50.
  • St. Louis County – the filing fee for Dissolution of Marriage is $148.50.

There is also often a $25 service fee for having the divorce papers served on your spouse. 

Other court costs may arise for filing additional motions or divorce paperwork with the court. Note that those fees can also vary by county, so it’s important to confirm the filing fees and court costs in your county.

Divorce filing fee waivers in Missouri

If you cannot afford the Missouri divorce filing fees, a fee waiver may be available. 

You will need to file a motion with the court and provide information about your income, expenses, assets, and debt. 

How much does a divorce lawyer cost in Missouri?

Attorneys’ fees for a Missouri divorce lawyer can be one of the biggest factors affecting the cost of divorce in Missouri. 

To understand the cost of hiring a Missouri divorce attorney, it's important to first understand how they charge for their services.

Divorce Attorney Billing Methods

Divorce attorneys in Missouri use two main fee structures: hourly rates or flat fees. 

With an hourly rate, the divorce lawyer bills their client based on the time spent working on the case.  

By contrast, some divorce lawyers may charge a flat fee for their services. With a flat fee, divorce attorneys will quote a predetermined amount for their work on the divorce case. 

Pros and cons of billing methods

The details of your divorce could impact which fee structure makes more sense. For example, flat fees are often more compatible with uncontested divorce cases where the attorney can more accurately predict how much time they will spend working on the case. Meanwhile, hourly rates generally work better for contested divorces where the amount of work required may be less predictable.

Average Hourly Rates For Missouri Divorce Lawyers

The average hourly rate for Family Law attorneys in Missouri is approximately $253 per hour. (Note that divorce is a subsection of the legal practice area of Family Law). 

But this is just an average, and actual rates can vary based on several factors (e.g. the lawyer's experience, where they’re based, etc.). For example, hourly rates may be higher in big cities such as St. Louis than in other parts of Missouri.

Knowing hourly rates is helpful, but it's also important to consider the amount of time the lawyer will spend working on your case. After all, the amount of time a divorce lawyer devotes to a case can have a bigger impact on the total cost of divorce than their hourly rate. (I.e. compare $250 x 10 hours for $2,500 in attorney fees vs. $200 x 50 hours for $10,000).  

With that in mind, other factors that affect the cost of divorce in Missouri in crucial ways are the complexity and contentiousness of the divorce.

Complicated divorces cost more

The complexity of a divorce case can significantly impact its overall cost. Generally, the more complex a divorce is, the more expensive it can be. 

A threshold issue is whether the divorce is uncontested or contested. Uncontested divorces tend to be less complicated and, therefore, less expensive than contested divorces.

Even among contested divorces, there is a wide range of possibilities, though, so we will also explore the other factors that contribute to a more complicated divorce process.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce in Missouri

So, what is an uncontested divorce? It’s a divorce in which both spouses mutually agree on all divorce-related issues, such as alimony, child custody, child support, and property division. 

The cost of an uncontested divorce is generally lower than a contested divorce because the process is typically faster and simpler overall. The cost of an uncontested divorce in Missouri is often limited to court costs and filing fees, assuming the parties can collaborate and reach an agreement.

By contrast, contested divorces involve unresolved issues between the parties. The number of disputed issues and the intensity of those disputes significantly impact the overall cost of divorce in Missouri for contested divorces. (E.g. is there a simple disagreement about how to share joint custody, or are you dealing with a full-blown custody battle?).

And will every uncontested divorce cost more than every contested divorce? No, but they often do, and the upper limit of a contested divorce cost range is generally going to be much higher.

What makes a Missouri divorce more complicated?

maze, labyrinth, solution

Several factors that can make a divorce more complicated include:

  • Minor children 
  • Substantial marital assets
  • Complicated marital assets
  • Requests for alimony

Each of these factors can contribute to a more complicated divorce process and thereby increase costs. (For instance, divorces involving minor children require the parties to work through child custody and child support arrangements). 

Additionally, these issues can each be a source of disagreement, which brings us to our next factor affecting Missouri divorce costs

Contentious divorces cost more

Going through a contentious divorce can be emotionally draining and financially burdensome. While uncontested divorces are usually more cost-effective and straightforward, not all couples can reach such agreements.

That said, even when an uncontested divorce is not possible, it is still helpful to adopt a collaborative approach and try to cooperate with your ex-spouse.

One method for mitigating the costs associated with a contentious divorce is through divorce mediation or other collaborative divorce processes. In mediation, a neutral third-party mediator facilitates discussions between you and your ex-spouse to find mutually agreeable solutions. This can significantly reduce the likelihood of lengthy court battles and hefty lawyer fees.

While it may be challenging for divorcing couples to set aside personal differences, focusing on the broader benefits of a collaborative approach can lead to a simpler and more cost-effective divorce process. 

FAQs About the Cost of Divorce in Missouri

Who pays court costs for a divorce in Missouri?

Typically, each party is responsible for paying for their respective court costs in a Missouri divorce. This includes filing fees or any other court costs associated with the legal proceedings.

However, according to Missouri law, the court can require one party to pay for court costs or even attorneys’ fees of the party “after considering all relevant factors including the financial resources of both parties, the merits of the case and the actions of the parties during the pendency of the action."

What is the cheapest way to get a divorce in Missouri?

An uncontested divorce, in which the spouses are able to avoid hiring lawyers, is generally the cheapest way to get a divorce in Missouri. 

If the divorcing couple agrees on all divorce-related issues, they can submit a proposed marital settlement agreement to the court for approval.

As discussed above, uncontested divorces are generally faster, easier, and less expensive than contested divorces, and the cost of uncontested divorce in Missouri can be limited to the filing fees and court costs.

The Final Word on the Cost of Divorce in Missouri

So, how much does a divorce cost in Missouri? Let’s recap the key takeaways. 

The average cost of divorce in Missouri is approximately $13,500 for cases without children and $20,200 for divorces involving children, but actual costs can vary greatly. 

Things such as filing fees, court costs, attorneys' fees, the complexity of your divorce, and the level of contention involved all play a role in determining the overall cost of divorce. 

Hiring an experienced Missouri divorce lawyer can provide invaluable expertise, but if cost concerns arise, there are alternative options available. Limited-scope representation and seeking assistance from Legal Aid can offer more affordable alternatives to hiring a divorce attorney. 

If you have other questions about the cost of divorce in Missouri, it is advisable to consult with a qualified divorce attorney who can address your concerns and provide personalized guidance. During the initial consultation, be sure to ask these questions to evaluate whether the lawyer is the right fit for your specific situation.