An important aspect of any divorce is the division of property. This process can be potentially frustrating and frequently takes a long time to negotiate, even with a skilled Kansas City, MO, divorce lawyer. Some spouses have to settle their property division through court and no longer have control over the separation of their marital assets. Understanding how Missouri law divides property can help spouses approach this aspect of their divorce with more confidence.
Dividing Property According to Equitable Distribution
Missouri is one of many states operating under equitable distribution laws. Under these guidelines, all marital assets are split fairly between spouses based on specific factors in their marriage. This split could be equal, but it often is not. The court will look at factors including:
- Each spouse’s separate assets and debts
- Each spouse’s income and earning capacity
- Each spouse’s age and health
- The length of time spouses were married
- If one spouse was substantially financially supportive of their spouse’s education, vocational training, or other efforts to further their career
- Each spouse’s financial and caretaking contributions to marital assets
- If either spouse’s marital misconduct negatively impacted marital assets
A spouse may receive a higher portion of marital assets if the court considers it to be fair.
Understanding Contributions to Marital Property
When the court reviews each spouse’s contributions to marital property, it doesn’t only consider income and financial contributions. Non-financial contributions will also be considered, such as:
- One spouse provided significant professional support for the other’s career
- One spouse limited their career or didn’t work in order to care for children
- One spouse cared more for marital assets like the home
The court will determine if these contributions directly limited that spouse’s career, income, and future earning potential. If they did, the court is likely to provide that spouse with a greater share of marital assets.
Property Division Outside of Court
Divorcing spouses do not have to be subject to equitable distribution laws. If spouses are willing and able to work together on a separation agreement, they can divide assets how they want to. Spouses may want to try to mediate their divorce with third-party mediation or obtain a collaborative divorce, with each spouse represented by their own legal counsel.
Even if spouses do not agree on all aspects of their divorce, mediation or negotiation can be a less expensive alternative to litigating all parts of the divorce. If spouses can agree on property division in their separation agreement, they do not have to divide assets according to equitable distribution. They can divide assets however they want, as long as it is not especially unfair to one spouse.
The court will review the agreement and determine if it is fair. If the agreement places one spouse in financial hardship, the court will not enter the agreement into a court order. If the court determines the agreement to be fair, it will approve it and continue to finalize the divorce. It’s important to have legal counsel to protect your rights during the creation of a separation agreement.
Marital and Separate Property
Marital assets are divided in a divorce, but separate assets are not. A couple’s assets and property include homes, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, retirement accounts, art, jewelry, and other high-value assets. Whether these assets are considered marital or separate depends on when they were obtained.
Marital property is any property gained during the duration of a couple’s marriage. This property does not have to be under the names of both spouses to be considered marital property. State law assumes that any assets obtained from the date of marriage to the legal date of separation are marital assets unless either spouse shows proof otherwise.
Separate property, or non-marital property, are any assets obtained before marriage or after legal separation. Each spouse retains their own separate assets after divorce.
These rules have certain exceptions. There are some assets considered separate even if they were obtained during the marriage, including:
- Gifts or inheritance to one spouse
- Property obtained with separate assets
- Property specifically considered separate through a marital agreement
- In some cases, the increase in the value of separate property
Q: How Are Assets Split in Divorce in Missouri?
A: In a Missouri divorce, marital assets may be split in any way spouses want if they are mediating or collaborating on divorce and the judge determines the separation is fair. If spouses cannot agree on a separation agreement for property division, the judge on the case will separate assets according to the state’s equitable distribution laws. Rather than splitting the assets 50/50, the judge will determine what is an equitable split of the assets.
Q: What Is the Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in Missouri?
A: Both spouses in a divorce are entitled to their equitable share of marital assets, which means any assets obtained during the marriage, with some exceptions. The court enters the division of property assuming both spouses have an equal claim to marital assets and then alters this assumption based on several factors.
These factors include the value of each spouse’s separate assets, each spouse’s income, how each spouse contributed to marital assets financially and non-financially, and if any marital misconduct negatively impacted marital assets. The court evaluates these factors to determine what is equitable.
Q: Is Missouri a 50-50 State in Divorce?
A: No, Missouri is not a 50-50 property division divorce state. Only a handful of states are 50-50 divorce states, or community property states, and these states divide all marital assets equally between spouses.
In an equitable distribution state, several factors will determine what an equitable split of assets between spouses is. This could end up being an equal split, but it does not have to be. If spouses have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or mediate their own separation agreement, the laws of equitable distribution do not have to apply.
Q: What Assets are Divisible in Divorce?
A: Marital property is the assets divisible in a divorce. This includes any property or asset obtained by either spouse throughout the length of their marriage. Separate property is not up for division during divorce.
There are some exceptions to this. Gifts or inheritances given to one spouse are considered separate property. Property obtained with separate assets is separate property. Assets gained after legal separation are also separate assets. Spouses can also dictate what assets are separate or marital in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
Protecting Your Interests During Property Division in Kansas City, MO
Whether you are mediating your divorce or handling it through litigation, protect your property rights and personal interests with the experienced attorneys at Stange Law Firm.