Divorce proceedings are never easy, and negotiating property division can be an aggravating and lengthy process. Ideally, these proceedings are amicable and as fair to both parties as possible. However, in some situations, one or both spouses believe they may be entitled to more assets than the other. This can become contentious and take your divorce from negotiation to litigation. When a judge determines the division of property during litigation, you lose control over the results. It’s essential to understand how property is divided in Missouri.
Marital vs. Non-Marital Property
Property, or assets, owned by a couple include real estate, homes, vehicles, bank accounts, and other significant assets. Property is either considered marital property or non-marital property, depending on when or how it was acquired.
- Marital Property: This includes all property the couple gained during the time of the marriage, whether separately or together.
- Non-Marital Property: Also called separate property, this was gained by one spouse prior to the marriage and remains theirs after divorce.
There are several exceptions to these rules. This includes:
- Property or assets gained from a gift or inheritance, along with anything gained by using these assets
- Property or assets gained with separate property
- Property that both spouses agree on paper is non-marital property, such as with a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
- Property gained after legal separation
- Any increase in the value of separate property in some circumstances
In Missouri, property gained during a marriage is presumed to be marital property unless proven otherwise. Non-marital property can become marital property if one spouse financially contributes to the other spouse’s non-marital property.
Missouri Is an Equitable Distribution State
Missouri implements a marital vs. non-marital classification because all marital property in a divorce can be distributed to both spouses. Missouri is an equitable distribution state, meaning the court will divide assets fairly. This is not the same as an equal split. The court will decide how property is divided based on many factors, including:
- How long the spouses were married
- Each spouse’s age and health
- The income, assets, debts, and earning capacity of each spouse
- Whether one spouse is caring for minor children who require significant care
- How each spouse conducted themselves in the marriage, such as wasting marital property
- How much each spouse contributed to marital assets
- If one spouse made significant financial contributions to the other spouse’s education or vocational training
- The amount of non-marital assets each spouse holds
The court will use these factors to determine what is equitable in a couple’s specific situation. Marital misconduct, such as infidelity, may impact how much each spouse receives, while other forms of misconduct may not affect the outcome. One spouse may receive more assets than the other if the court considers this to be reasonable for the circumstances.
Non-Monetary Contributions to a Marriage
In addition to financial contributions and marital conduct, the court will also account for any non-monetary contributions from each spouse. This means marital contributions such as:
- One spouse forwent a career to care for children.
- One spouse took greater care of marital assets, like a home, through bills or domestic duties.
- One spouse provided professional support for the other spouse’s career.
If one spouse sacrificed their own earning capacity, income, and career to care for the house and children, the court may award that spouse a higher proportion of assets.
Proving Property Is Non-Marital
You must be able to prove that an asset was:
- A gift or inheritance
- Non-marital due to a marital agreement
- Gained without any financial support or share from your spouse
If you own any non-marital property that your spouse helped pay for, they will receive their equitable share.
Avoiding Property Division in Court
If you and your spouse can agree on how property should be divided, you can do so outside of court through mediation. Even if you and your spouse disagree on some issues, it’s less time-consuming and less expensive to negotiate these issues and attempt to find a compromise you both agree on. Mediation is more private than litigation and gives you more control over the outcome of property division. It can also lead to a better long-term, amicable relationship with your ex-spouse. Working with a mediation family law attorney can ensure the separation agreement is reasonable and in your interests before it is approved by a judge.
Q: Is Missouri a 50-50 State?
A: Missouri is not a 50-50 state. The court does not divide marital property equally, but equitably. In an equitable distribution state, the court looks at several factors about financial and non-monetary contributions to a marriage, as well as how each spouse conducted themselves in the marriage. Using these factors, the court will determine what is a reasonable and fair distribution.
Q: What Is a Wife Entitled to in a Divorce Settlement in Missouri?
A: Each spouse is entitled to an equitable portion of shared marital property. All property gained during the course of a marriage is considered marital, unless there is a pre- or post-nuptial agreement. These agreements may create a different way for assets to be divided. There are other reasons marital property may be considered separate property, but the court will consider it to be marital property unless determined otherwise.
Q: Is Inherited Property Marital Property in Missouri?
A: Inherited property is not shared property in Missouri. This means that it will not be up for division during divorce. Property that is given as a gift or inheritance to one spouse is non-marital property, and any property gained by using this separate property is also considered separate property. This changes if the property is gained using both spouses’ separate property—it then becomes marital property.
Q: What Is Considered Non-Marital Property in Missouri?
A: Non-marital property is considered any property or asset gained prior to a marriage. Some property obtained during marriage may be considered non-marital. For example, there may be a legally binding marital agreement that outlines specific marital property as non-marital property. Property that one spouse acquires from a gift or inheritance is also considered non-marital. If any property was gained after legal separation, then it is considered non-marital.
Contact Stange Law Firm in St. Louis
The process of divorce and property division isn’t easy for anyone. If you’re in need of legal representation for mediation or litigation in St. Louis, contact Stange Law Firm today. We want to help guide you through this difficult time with legal counsel and support.