Do I need a divorce or dissolution of marriage? - There is no practical difference.  Technically, marriages in Missouri are ended by "Dissolution of Marriage," in Kansas by "Divorce," but they are simply different names for the same thing.

The laws in the two states are similar, but hardly identical.  When presenting specific information, unless otherwise noted this website discusses matters of Missouri law and procedure, particularly as it relates to Clay, Platte and Jackson Counties.

Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage are judicial proceedings which end a lawful marriage. As part of that process, there are special rules regarding the division of property, spousal maintenance ("alimony"), child custody and child support.

Platte County Circuit Court Platte City MissouriAn unlawful marriage is ended by a different process called an annulment. The consequence of an annulment is a judicial declaration that the couple was in fact never married to one another.  The results being that the special dissolution of marriage procedures are not applicable which can result in a huge difference in how property is divided and precludes spousal maintenance.  There is very little impact on child custody and support.  There are still more ramifications not the least of which may be prior tax filings as married persons.

Couples who have cohabited may not use divorce or dissolution of marriage laws to divide their property.  They must rely on a procedure known as partition.  Partition may divide either real estate or personal property of either a tangible or intangible nature.  Many couples find partition to be a very unsatisfactory method.  If a couple wishes to live together without marrying, then a contractual agreement essentially establishing a business partnership is a very wise investment.

It is important to note that very few states now recognize what is called a "common law" marriage.  Missouri does not, but several close neighbors do:  Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas.  Arkansas did until rather recently.  The exact rules for establishing a common law marriage vary, but all are similar to these three simultaneous conditions:  1) legally eligible to marry; 2) intent and agreement between the couple to be married; 3) public presentment as husband and wife.

If a couple has lived in a state which recognizes common law marriage, and has perfected the requirements for common law marriage, moving to a different state does not end the marriage.  All states are obligated to recognize the valid heterosexual marriage established by any other state.  Ending a common law marriage in Missouri will require resort to the courts and dissolution of marriage laws.


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