An overview of marital property distribution in Missouri

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Family Law on Friday, September 12, 2014.

Married couples who are considering a divorce can, depending on the duration of their marriage and their means while married, accumulate significant assets that may be subject to distribution. This post addresses some of the considerations that go into deciding who may receive which assets.

Missouri is in the majority of states that use equitable distribution. This means that instead of an automatic equal split, the division of property will depend on a more loosely defined concept of fairness. One ex-spouse may, under equitable distribution, receive more marital assets than the other.

To be subject to equitable distribution, an asset must be marital property. What this means is that some kinds of property — for example, assets that a spouse brought into the marriage or a separate inheritance — are generally not considered to be marital property and will not be subject to distribution. This general rule is not, however, absolute: Through co-mingling of separate property (especially money) with marital property, the separate property can become marital property as well.

The classic form of this occurrence is when one spouse with separate funds places those funds into a joint bank account.

Marital property, on the other hand, is property — including wages and other income — a spouse acquires during the marriage. It does not matter if one spouse earns the sole income in the marriage; that income is considered a marital asset and is subject to distribution.

A divorcing couple can agree between themselves how to divide marital assets in the form of a property division agreement. This has the advantage of giving the spouses control over the division of marital property instead of letting a judge decide.

If the couple elects not to enter into such an agreement, however, or cannot reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, then a judge will decide how to divide the marital property.

This post is only an overview of how asset distribution works in Missouri. If you are going through a divorce or have specific questions, it may be advisable to consult with a qualified legal professional.

Source: FindLaw, “The FindLaw Guide to Divorce and Property Division,” accessed on Aug. 28, 2014

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