How the Missouri Court System Works

The better you understand how the court system works, the better chance you have of successfully representing yourself. In Missouri, family law cases are filed in the circuit court. Some areas have special courts called "family courts" that are part of the circuit court. Family court cases include dissolutions, annulments, paternity actions, name changes, modifications, child support, domestic violence, etc. The Missouri Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Missouri deal with legal mistakes made in the circuit court. Click here to view a diagram of the Missouri court system.

If you are representing yourself, there are a variety of resources available that may help you.

  • Court Clerks & Court Staff: Missouri does allow court clerks to help you with certain information; however, court clerks are limited in the assistance they can provide you. Click here to review the list of items court staff can and cannot do for you: Court Staff Assistance

  • Domestic Violence: If domestic violence is an issue in your case and you meet certain income guidelines, you may be eligible for free representation through Legal Aid/Legal Services. For a directory of domestic violence resources available by county, click here for more information.

  • Disability or Language Barrier: Everyone has a right to come to court and participate in the legal system. This includes people who use wheelchairs, people with hearing and vision problems, and people who don't speak English. If you or anyone participating in your case needs special arrangements, first contact the court where you filed the case.

  • Mediation: You may be able to resolve some issues through a process called mediation. Mediation gives people a chance to discuss their disputed issues with a neutral mediator. A mediator is a trained problem-solver who can help parties reach an agreement. Mediators usually charge a fee for their services, but mediation could save you time and money in the long run. The mediator can help you and your spouse think of possible solutions and alternatives. Ask the court for a list of trained mediators available in your area, or click here. If an agreement is reached through mediation, the parties must still present their agreement to the court for approval by the judge.

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