Peggy S. Hedrick, Attorney at Law

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The LAW regarding divorce is Chapter 452 of the Missouri Statutes. The Missouri Statutes are available in any library.

A Few of the Questions most often asked about Divorce
We've agreed to everything. Why can't we just do our divorce ourselves, without a lawyer?
Is there a check list for doing a divorce?
Can't you represent both of us?
What lawyer should I choose?
How do I know you will do a good job for me?
I want a "flat fee"! Can't you guarantee how much will it cost?!

Check the links in the blue box, above for answers to questions, then try...

Other information that may be helpful in your planning

Checklist for preparing a Decree of Divorce
Property which must be divided
How much can I expect it to cost?
How long will a divorce take?
Can I move to another state with the children, after I am divorced?

Divorcing without a lawyer? Yes, some people do divorce without a lawyer. It may be dangerous to do so if you have children or own any real property...and if you do something wrong, the judge cannot tell you what you did, or did not, do. He can only deny your divorce, and refer you to a lawyer.

The same lawyer for both of you? A lawyer CAN represent both of you. It is better if you choose which of you is to be represented, because the lawyer has a duty to do her best for her clients. If you disagree about anything -- you both will have to find another lawyer, because that lawyer cannot do her best for both of you, if you are fighting.

One way it could work: though both of you consult a lawyer together, you might agree that the lawyer represents only the wife. The lawyer prepares the paperwork according to both of your instructions. The husband either does not have a lawyer, or goes to another lawyer, at least briefly, to have whatever agreement is worked out evaluated from his point of view.

Choosing a lawyer: You should choose a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable, and who answers your questions to your satisfaction. It is a good idea to talk things through before making your choice and then rely on the lawyer you choose to do her best. You may get some good ideas on how to choose your lawyer by checking the Find a Lawyer page on this web site!

A 'good' job: A lawyer cannot know what you mean by "good job." Lawyers cannot guarantee certain results. We are licensed to practice law, and if we do not work "zealously" for our clients, can lose our licenses. If you are not a lawyer yourself, the only way you can judge the quality of a lawyer's work is through talking to other lawyers, and your own evaluation of the lawyer's personal qualities. If you are concerned about the quality of your lawyer's work, you should ask specific questions, and, if you do not like the answers, find someone else to represent you.


Even if a divorce is simple, and everything is agreed, a lawyer will need the following information to prepare a decree of divorce. The following examples are things that might be needed if you were getting a divorce in a Southwest Missouri Court.

If you have minor children your lawyer may need:

A certificate of completion of the Children First Program. This is a program some local Courts require of parents. They must register with a local service, and view a video tape which is an "informational program" regarding the impact of divorce on children.
A written outline of your specific plans as to custody and visitation. For example, when will the children be with the mother and when with the father, through a one year period? Which holidays will the children spend with each parent? In addition to the usual State and federal holidays, you might include Mother's Day, Father's Day, the children's and the parents' birthdays --and any other days that are special to you, your children, and/or your extended family.
As to calculation of the "presumed" amount of child support, the Courts have a form in the Supreme Court Rules, "Form 14" which must be filled out, calculated, and submitted to the Court. The Court cannot deviate from the amounts calculated according to the procedures in that form, without a good reason.
In order to prepare those calculations, one needs:
--Copies of IRS returns and the latest wage statements from both husband and wife
--Copies of healthcare policies and the monthly payments which are made for the children's coverage, only.
You and your spouse must decide who gets the IRS deduction for the children.

Property which must be divided and needs special consideration

Pensions and retirement benefits of both husband and wife.Couples do not realize that their pensions are marital property and are presumed to be divided equally.
ALL titled property: (real property, cars, boats, motorcycles, etc. no matter how it is titled). In order to evaluate a fair distribution, and prepare the necessary paperwork, a lawyer will need copies of all deeds to real property owned by either husband or wife, and copies of titles of all motor vehicles, no matter what you plan to do with it -- and even if you have complete agreement on your plan.
Depending on the complexity of the property you own, it may be necessary to list all property not in the possession of the person to whom it is to be awarded.
Debts, including the creditor name, address, balance due, and which of you is to pay each debt should be listed. It is a good idea to compile this list by making a copy of the most recent statement from the creditor.

How Much Will it Cost?How much will the legal fees be?
The uncertainty of legal fees is a major problem for couples going through a divorce. Non-lawyers do not know how to judge what is fair.

Lawyers know how expensive legal costs can be to clients, and try to structure fees in a way that is fair, and understandable. It is reasonable to request a written contract, which will set everything out in detail. Fees differ considerably from one attorney to another, and from one geographical area to another. There are usually concrete reasons for the fees, and you should discuss your concerns, and the fee structure, with the lawyer you choose.

Usually divorces are billed on an hourly basis. Flat fees would be based on an estimate of how much the hourly fees would be. Those lawyers who charge flat fees have one flat fee for each stage of the proceeding. For example, there is one fee if no lawyer enters an appearance for the opposing side. If another lawyer enters an appearance (files papers with the Court), then the fee automatically becomes hourly, or becomes a higher "flat" amount.

In addition to payment for services, the client also pays all costs, which includes things like filing fees, private investigators, appraisals, long distance phone calls, postage, copy machine charges, and mileage. Legal Assistant services are considered "costs" in most law offices, while the "secretarial" services, of filing, copying, and routine, unskilled, office chores, are absorbed in the fees.

A deposit, or surety, will be required, in an amount which will cover the expenses of getting everything started. The amount of deposit will be more if, for instance, you are a new client, have many debts, or are from out of state. A prior client who had already established a payment record with an attorney might not have to pay the same amount. If you have asked that your spouse pay your attorney fees -- the Court may order that he or she pay you back -- but you are responsible for your attorney fees, whether the Court orders your spouse to pay or not.


Be sure to ask questions if you don't understand fees and costs. Sometimes it is difficult to talk about money -- but hard feelings develop because of misunderstandings.


  1. Husband or wife files the "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" in the office of the Circuit Clerk usually in the County where the family lives. The person who files is called the "Petitioner."
  2. The Circuit Clerk checks to make sure that the Petition is filed in the correct place and attaches a "Summons" to the Petition, telling the other side what he or she must do, including deadlines, and assigning a number to the divorce case. Since the other side must "respond" -- he or she is called the "Respondent"
  3. The Sheriff must serve a copy of the "Summons" and Petition on the other side. The parties can agree that the Sheriff does not have to serve the copy on the other side, but if he does not, then a "Waiver of Service" must be signed by the Respondent and notarized.
  4. Within thirty days from the date that the Respondent receives a copy of the Summons and Petition, an "Answer" or "Response" to the Petition must be filed with the Circuit Clerk, and a copy sent to the Petitioner's lawyer.
  5. After the "Answer" is filed the case is "at issue." If everything is agreed, a decree of divorce can be prepared and presented to the Judge for approval.
  6. If there is a dispute about ANYthing (the smallest disagreement) then a trial setting must be requested from the Judge to which the case was assigned. T he request must be made in writing, following a specific form, according to rules set up by each Court.
  7. There is no hurry from the Court's point of view, for entering your Decree of Divorce. You can take as long as you need to negotiate terms for your divorce. A divorce can be obtained in as little as 31 days, and it may take as long as several years.
Can I Move to Another State With the Children? Can I move with the children to another state after I am divorced?
Missouri law requires that the adjacent statement be inserted in every divorce decree:

Notice regarding Relocation of Child by parent for more than ninety days, pursuant to RSMo 452.377

Notice of a proposed relocation of the residence of the children, or any party entitled to custody or visitation of the children, shall be given in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to any party with custody or visitation rights. Absent exigent circumstances as determined by a court with jurisdiction, written notice shall be provided at least sixty days in advance of the proposed relocation. The notice of the proposed relocation shall include the following information:

  1. The intended new residence, including the specific address and mailing address, if known, and if not known, the city;
  2. The home telephone number of the new residence, if known;
  3. The date of the intended move or proposed relocation;
  4. A brief statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of a child, if applicable, and
  5. A proposal for a revised schedule of custody or visitation with the child, if applicable.

Thank you for visiting my web site. This page was last updated on 2/06/2009.
If, after reviewing these pages, you choose to contact me, please keep your message brief. You must IDENTIFY YOURSELF. Include your City, State and Country in your email and include information in the subject line identifying the nature of your request. I do not respond to ANY messages which do not follow these guidelines, or are sent anonymously. I do not open messages which contain attachments.


All pages on this web site are for general informational purposes only. Legal concepts are based upon Missouri law, and general practice in local state and federal courts. Before applying any general legal concepts to specific facts, an attorney would have to be fully informed of the specific circumstances and goals of the individuals involved, which would include examination of relevant documents and conferring with the parties.

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Peggy S. Hedrick, Attorney at Law
Post Office Box 11027
Springfield Missouri USA 65808-1027
Peggy S. Hedrick, Attorney at Law
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