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How are assets divided in a divorce in Missouri?
In a Missouri divorce, all marital assets are subject to equitable division. The court will try to distribute marital assets equitably and fairly. This does not mean, however, that the property will be divided equally.
You may reasonably want to keep as many of your assets as you can while going through the divorce process, but your ex-spouse can seek more than you think they should have. The family court will make the decision if you and your spouse are unable to agree on how to divide your property.
If your marriage is coming to an end, you must know the key points of Missouri law regarding property division in divorce. In the section below, we explore how a Missouri divorce court will determine who gets what.
In a Missouri divorce, courts must first identify what property is liable for distribution before deciding how to split the couple’s assets. Finding out which assets are “marital” and which are “separate” property is the essence of the matter.
What is regarded as marital property in Missouri?
According to Missouri law, any assets amassed or earned by either spouse throughout the marriage – up to the date of the final divorce decree (known as the “dissolution of marriage” in Missouri) or legal separation – are presumed to be marital assets that should be shared during the divorce. That’s according to Missouri Revised Statutes Title XXX. Domestic Relations § 452.330. Disposition of property and debts, factors to be considered.
Whether the property title is in one spouse’s name only or in the name of both spouses in a legal co-ownership such as joint tenancy, the property is considered marital property subject to division in a divorce. For instance, if a spouse purchases a car during the marriage and only their name is on the title, it is still considered marital property. However, either spouse can challenge this presumption of marital property by proving that the money or assets fall under one of the exceptions described below.
What constitutes separate property in Missouri?
Apart from property acquired by a spouse before the marriage, Missouri law recognizes the following as separate property:
- gifts received by one spouse during the marriage (including those given by the other spouse),
- assets or money inherited by a spouse during the marriage,
- property obtained during the marriage in exchange for separate property (such as a car purchased with inherited funds),
- property that both spouses agreed to exclude from the marital property in a legally valid written agreement (such as a prenuptial agreement),
- and property obtained by either spouse after a legal separation decree has been issued by the court.
During a marriage, separate property—such as a home or company that one spouse had before the union—often grows in value. If you’re wondering whether the increase is marital or separate property, the typical response is no.
However, if marital assets (including a spouse’s employment) contributed to the increase in value, that share of the increase will be deemed marital property liable to division in the divorce. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 452.330(3) (2023).)
Let’s assume that a couple resided in a home that one spouse had owned prior to the union. The house was worth more when they got divorced than it was when they were married due to typical real estate appreciation. The owner spouse’s separate property would still include that increase.
But let’s assume the couple added a room to the property using funds from their joint bank account, increasing the house’s worth by $100,000. Then, $100,000 of the total amount would be regarded as marital property.
Division of Assets and Debt
You can attempt to negotiate a property and debt distribution arrangement with your soon-to-be ex by yourself, but you must submit the agreement to the court for approval. The court may approve your negotiated settlement unless it is “unconscionable” or fails to equitably divide all marital assets and liabilities. But if you can’t agree, a court will decide who gets the house, the family pet, the credit card debt, and other assets and liabilities that need to be divided in the end.
According to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 452.330, the court will examine the following elements when allocating your marital assets and debts:
- the financial situation of each party at the time of the property division
- The child custody arrangement, particularly as it pertains to granting one party the right to own the family home or allowing them to reside there for a specific amount of time
- Contributions of each party to the debt or asset purchase
- The behavior of each party during the marriage
- Each party’s individual assets, liabilities, and values
You should make a list of all your assets and liabilities since you’ll need it for negotiating. The following details have to be on your list.
- What debts and assets are regarded as marital or separate
- Date of the debt or asset acquisition
- The present value of each debt and asset
- The sum of each debt’s monthly payments
To properly navigate the property distribution process in your divorce, you should get in touch with a reputable family law attorney. Even if you want to reach an out-of-court settlement, a lawyer may assist with discussions, make sure your agreement is lawful and fair, and put you in touch with necessary professionals (like a forensic accountant).
Shea Kohl Law, LC will fight to safeguard your rights and interests if you require legal representation concerning the distribution of property and debts.
Call us today at (636) 946-9999 to speak with a competent family law attorney about your case.
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Shea Kohl Law, LC serves clients in Missouri including St. Charles, Troy and Lincoln and throughout Warren and St. Louis counties. We also serve clients in Illinois.