According to Missouri property division laws, in a proceeding for divorce or legal separation, if the parties cannot come to an agreement regarding the division of their assets, the court steps in and makes the decision for them.
In doing so, the court must first determine which assets are marital and which are non-marital, or separate property, of each party.
Definition of Marital Property in Missouri
Missouri law defines marital property as any property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage except:
- Property that was acquired by gift, bequest (received in a will), devise (received in a will), or descent (inheritance);
- Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
- Property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation;
- Property excluded by valid written agreement between the parties (for example, a prenuptial agreement); and
- The increase in value of property acquired prior to the marriage or pursuant to any of the means in 1-4 above, unless marital assets (i.e., labor) have contributed to this increase and then only to the extent of such contributions. (Therefore, the increase in value of any non-marital property is marital to the extent the other spouse contributed to its increase.)
Any property acquired after the marriage and before a decree of legal separation or divorce is presumed to be marital (excluding the exceptions listed above), regardless of how the property is titled, according to Missouri property division laws.
For example, it is irrelevant if the property is titled in only one individual’s name. The only way to overcome this presumption that the property is marital in Missouri is to show that the property was acquired by one of the ways listed above.
Non-Marital Property in Missouri
Non-marital property, however, is not considered marital merely because it has become commingled with marital property. For example, money acquired by one spouse through an inheritance placed into a joint checking account does not necessarily convert this money to marital property.
The key is to be able to prove to the court which portion of the money is non-marital and which part is marital. If the money cannot be traced to prove which half is marital and which half isn’t, then the court will consider all the money to be marital property.
Missouri Property Division Factors
Once the court determines which assets are marital property, it must then determine how to divide these assets between the parties if an agreement cannot be made between the parties themselves.
The court will divide marital property in such a way as it deems just after considering all relevant factors, including:
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective;
- The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
- The value of the non-marital property set apart to each spouse;
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage (for example, extra-marital affairs can be taken into consideration when dividing property); and
- Custodial arrangements for minor children.
After considering these factors, it is within the court’s discretion to distribute the property unevenly (but fairly) between the parties. Thus, it is in the best interests of most parties to come to an agreement between themselves regarding the division of their assets.
Missouri Divorce Attorney
The Missouri divorce attorneys at Cordell & Cordell work to help men protect their financial interests, particularly in the face of complex asset division.
For additional information and possible legal representation, please contact the domestic litigation firm of Cordell & Cordell, a partner men can count on.