Default Divorce in Missouri: How it Works

When couples in Missouri make the challenging decision to pursue a divorce, they have options available to them. Alongside the traditional divorce process, there is another route to consider: default divorce. A default divorce allows one spouse to initiate the dissolution of the marriage without requiring the other spouse’s active involvement or agreement. This article will delve into the intricacies of the default divorce process in Missouri, providing a comprehensive understanding of what it entails.

Unraveling the Concept of Default Divorce

Default divorce materializes when one spouse files for divorce and the other spouse fails to respond or engage in the proceedings. If the non-filing spouse neglects to acknowledge the divorce petition or attend any required court hearings, the court will proceed with the divorce assuming that the non-filing spouse has consented to the terms outlined in the divorce petition. However, this only occurs when the filing spouse has diligently adhered to all correct legal protocols.

Substantiating the Grounds for Default Divorce

In Missouri, the grounds for default divorce align with those established for traditional divorce. The filing spouse must substantiate that the marriage has irretrievably deteriorated due to one or multiple reasons, which may include:

  • Engaging in adultery
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Abandonment by the spouse
  • Suffering from physical or emotional abuse
  • Battling substance abuse issues

Initiating a Default Divorce in Missouri: Navigating the First Steps

Initiating a default divorce in Missouri necessitates the filing spouse initiating a divorce petition with the court. This petition must encompass all pertinent details related to matters such as property division, child custody, child support, and potential alimony obligations.

Subsequently, the non-filing spouse will receive a specific timeframe within which to formulate a response to the petition. Failure to respond within this designated period results in the court proceeding with the divorce as a default.

Ensuring Proper Service to the Non-Filing Spouse

Before the court can forge ahead with a default divorce in Missouri, it is crucial for the filing spouse to properly serve notice to the non-filing spouse regarding the divorce filing. This notice must be either served in person or delivered through certified mail.

In instances where the non-filing spouse cannot be located, the court may grant a motion for service via publication. This entails publishing a notice of the divorce petition in a local newspaper for a specified duration, typically spanning three weeks. Should the non-filing spouse still remain unresponsive, a default judgment may be entered.

Bringing a Default Divorce to Completion

Once the non-filing spouse has duly received proper service or failed to provide a response, the court will schedule a final hearing. During this hearing, the filing spouse must present evidence substantiating that they have diligently fulfilled all legal prerequisites for divorce. Following the judge’s endorsement of the final judgment, the divorce will be officially finalized.


Opting for a default divorce in Missouri can present a faster and more cost-effective alternative for ending a marriage, particularly when the non-filing spouse displays unresponsiveness or reluctance to participate in the divorce proceedings. Nonetheless, it is crucial to meticulously adhere to all legal procedures to obviate any potential complications. Enlisting the guidance of a capable attorney can facilitate navigating the process smoothly, ensuring a swift and efficient finalization of your divorce.

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