One of the most common questions new clients have is how courts in Missouri divide the property between spouses. Before dividing the property, the Court must first determine if each asset should be classified as marital or non-marital. Non-marital property is set aside to the appropriate party, and then the marital assets are divided in a way the Court deems just and equitable after considering all relevant factors. Before addressing those factors, it may be helpful to look at the definitions of marital and non-marital property.
In Missouri, all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is presumed to be marital property. It does not typically matter how property is titled. A party can overcome the presumption that certain property is marital by establishing that it fits into one of the following categories:
- Property acquired prior to marriage;
- Property acquired by gift, bequest, devise or descent [gift or inheritance];
- Property acquired through an exchange of property that was acquired prior to marriage or through gift, bequest, devise or descent;
- Property acquired after a decree of divorce;
- Property excluded by valid written agreement between the spouse [prenuptial or postnuptial agreement]; and
- The increase in value of non-marital property unless marital assets including labor have contributed to such increases and then only to the extent of such contributions.
The classification of property as marital or non-marital can get much more complicated when assets are commingled or when assets are purchased over time through both non-marital and marital funds. Your divorce attorney can help you determine what property is likely to be classified as marital and non-marital in these more complex situations.
Once the Court has identified the non-marital and marital property, the Court divides the marital property after considering all relevant factors, which include the following:
- Economic circumstances of each spouse;
- Contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property;
- Value of non-marital property set aside to each spouse;
- Conduct of the party during marriage; and
- Custodial arrangements for the minor children.
Based on the above factors, the Court has the discretion to divide the marital property in a way it deems just and equitable. Keep in mind a just and equitable division does NOT necessarily mean an equal division. Your divorce attorney can help you determine the impact the factors considered by the court will have upon the division of your marital estate, taking into account the specific facts and circumstances unique to your own situation.