There are many complicated aspects to any divorce. When you or your spouse own a business during your marriage, or you own a business together, this only adds to the complexities. Missouri law begins with the assumption that each partner in a divorce has an equal share of marital assets, and then it determines an equitable split based on factors in a marriage. Division of property laws could significantly affect your business after a divorce if you are unaware of how to protect it.

The Importance of Marital vs. Separate Property

It’s essential to first determine whether a business or the business’s assets you own are considered marital or separate property. Missouri works under equitable distribution laws, which means marital property is divided equitably and not necessarily equally. Separate property is not up for division in a St. Louis divorce. The value of each spouse’s separate property could impact how the courts determine an equitable split of marital property, but it isn’t divided.

The court assumes any property gained during the marriage’s duration is marital property unless one spouse proves otherwise. In order to prove something gained during a marriage is separate property, you may need to prove:

  • It was a gift or inheritance provided to one spouse.
  • It was excluded from marital property via marital agreement.
  • The property was obtained using separate assets.

Separate property that increased in value during a marriage is still considered separate property. However, separate property’s interests or dividends gained during a marriage are marital property.

If you obtained a business or business assets prior to a marriage, the division may be complex. If your business or business assets were gained during a marriage, it and its increase in value are likely considered marital property.

How Business Assets May Be Divided in Divorce

A business may be classified as marital or nonmarital by more than whether it was acquired prior to marriage. A spouse may have obtained the business before marriage, but their partner may have significantly contributed to the business, making it a marital asset in the court’s eyes. When determining the classification of a business and its assets, the courts will consider:

  • The date of the marriage compared to the date that the spouse or spouses started, acquired, or invested in the business
  • The amount of funds used and whether those funds were marital or separate property
  • How much money the couple invested into the business, separately and jointly
  • The involvement of each spouse in the business, including time, position, and effort

Depending on these factors, the court will determine whether the business should be categorized as separate or marital property.

Valuing a Business in a Divorce

Whether a business is determined to be marital or separate property, it likely needs to be professionally valued. If the business is separate property, its value will be a factor when equitably dividing marital property between spouses. If it is marital property, the value must be determined to equitably split the assets.

The more complex your business is, the more likely you will need a professional to evaluate it. The business’s assets, debts, income, and expenses will need to be determined. When spouses co-own a business, the division is more likely to be equal than if one spouse owned the business and the other made contributions. Unfortunately, the division of a business could be detrimental to business operations. If you want to protect a business during your divorce, you have several options.

Options for a Business in Divorce

Whether spouses co-own a business or not, there are different ways to handle a business in a divorce. These include:

  • Continue as business partners
  • Sell the business and divide the profits
  • One spouse receives a regular paycheck and/or a share in profits
  • One spouse buys the other’s share with financial assets or in marital assets
  • Spouses follow a marital agreement for the division of business assets

Spouses can mediate this decision rather than putting it in the court’s hands.


Q: Is a Business Marital Property in Missouri?

A: This varies based on the unique ownership of a couple’s business. If a couple co-owns a business together, it will likely be considered marital property. If one party owned or invested in the business prior to marriage, it could be considered separate property. However, if their spouse made significant contributions, it could be considered marital property. Dividends of investments from separate property are considered marital property. You will want to discuss your individual circumstances with an attorney to understand how your business may be categorized.

Q: How Many Years Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in Missouri?

A: There is no set amount of time a marriage needs to last before the court awards alimony. A divorce judge uses their own discretion. The length of the marriage is one factor the court considers when assigning alimony. Generally, the longer a marriage is, the more likely a judge is to award alimony, and the longer payments will last.

Q: Is Missouri a 50-50 State in Divorce?

A: Missouri is not a 50-50 divorce state. It is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court assumes each spouse has an equal claim to marital assets and then alters that based on several factors. The division may end up being equal but often is not. Factors that affect the court’s equitable distribution include:

  • The value of each spouse’s separate property.
  • Each spouse’s contribution to marital property, including financial and caring for the home.
  • Each spouse’s conduct during the marriage.
  • Marital misconduct that impacted the value of marital property.

Q: Can I Lose Half of My Business in a Divorce?

A: If you and your spouse co-own a business and are unable to come to an alternate solution, you could lose half of the business. There are several legal options available to spouses who co-own a business. These include continuing to co-own, a buy-out, or selling a business and dividing the profits.

Even if you are the only party who owns the business, your spouse may still be entitled to a portion of the business. This depends on the contributions of your spouse and the contributions of marital assets to the business.

Contact Stange Law Firm

Dividing a business can make a divorce even more overwhelming and complex than it already is. Save yourself some stress and get legal counsel from an experienced divorce attorney. Contact the team at Stange Law Firm today.