When a couple gets a divorce, all property from the marriage must be sorted out by the courts. Legally speaking, the courts must turn the 1 household that existed during the marriage into the 2 separate households of each former spouse. Among the many tasks a court must perform, a universal one is property division, specifically Missouri property division.
No divorcing couple should discount the guidance of a licensed attorney who works in these cases. Property division laws can be complex and lawyers have the proper training/experience to tell the judge what a divorcing spouse wants and/or needs from the property division.
Property Division Divorce Laws in Missouri
The purpose of Missouri property division laws is to make sure that marital property is allocated to each spouse equitably, but not necessarily in a 50-50 split. Missouri marital property is divided under the considerations of Missouri Statute §452.330 but the trial court judge receives great discretion when converting Missouri marital property into separate Missouri divorce property.
Missouri is an equitable distribution state. This means that with regard to Missouri divorce assets, anything the spouses brought into a marriage usually will not be included in Missouri divorce assets or Missouri divorce property. The only property that comes into the court's distribution is that which is legally classified as property of the marriage subject to Missouri Statute §452.330(2).
What is considered Marital and Non-Marital Property?
Marital property is defined as all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage per Missouri Statute §452.330(2). Missouri Statute §452.330(3) contains a presumption that all property not listed as an exemption that was acquired during marriage is marital property, regardless of how title is held.
Non-marital property is property listed as an exemption under Missouri Statute §452.330(2). Some examples of non-marital property are:
- Any property classified as separate under an agreement between the parties
- Property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent
- The increase in value of property acquired prior to the marriage or exempt property, unless marital assets including labor, have contributed to such increases and then only to the extent of such contributions
Under Missouri Statute §452.330(4), the mere commingling of non-marital property into marital property is not enough to convert non-marital property into marital property.
Dividing Assets and Debt
After the court decides which property is available for distribution, the next step is property valuation. The final step is the allocation of marital property.
Under Missouri Statute §452.330(1), the court considers a number of factors in dividing assets and debt. Some of these are:
- The parties' conduct during the marriage
- The parties' contributions to the marriage
- The parties' economic circumstances
- The value of each party's non-marital property
Using statutory factors, judges decide how a marriage's assets should be divided. Here is a list of the most common property items and the most common allocation scheme used.
- Cash: Divided equitably among the
- Example 1: A joint savings account has $5,000. The court would most likely award a portion to each spouse depending on each spouses' financial situations.
- Example 2: A joint savings account has $5,000. One spouse contributed $4,000 and the other contributed $1,000. The amount may be divided in a 50-50 split or may be more balanced if the $1,000 contributor has fewer assets than the $4,000 contributor.
- Retirement Plans: Divided based on the
duration of the marriage at the time the benefits accrued, looking at the
present value of the plan and/or survivor benefits.
- Example 1: A spouse got benefits in a retirement plan after working for 25 years and was married for 10 of those years. The ex-spouse would be entitled to a portion of the retirement plan that was acquired during the marriage.
- Example 2: A spouse has an unvested retirement plan. No division takes place until the plan is payable to the spouse who has it. It may or may not be included in the court's property division.
- Vehicles: Divided based on the values at
the date of trial or as close to the division date as possible. May be sold or given to a spouse outright.
- Example 1: A spouse owns a motorcycle. The motorcycle may be sold with the proceeds to be given to a poorer spouse or the motorcycle may be given to a spouse outright.
- Example 2: A car has a shared title. The car may be sold with the proceeds going to each spouse or simply given to a poorer spouse.
- Insurance: Determined based upon each
spouse's health, availability of alternate insurance and premium payments from
- Example 1: One spouse has covered the other under employer provided health insurance. The other spouse is in poor health and could not afford alternate health care coverage. The court may order the first spouse to continue covering that spouse for a set time and/or award money to the ailing spouse to get new coverage.
- Example 2: One spouse has a life insurance policy where the ex-spouse is to get survivor benefits. If marital income was used to make payments on the insurance, the spouse may be entitled to a portion of the benefits.
Settling Disputes in a Divorce Case with Property and Asset Division
Under Missouri Statute §452.330(5), the property division order is final and may not be modified. However, if a spouse is being uncooperative you may go back to court to enforce the order.
The trial court's determinations will not be changed by a higher court unless there was an abuse of discretion.
Help From a Missouri Property Divorce Lawyer
It can not be stressed enough that retaining a Missouri property divorce lawyer is key to getting the fairest and most equitable result in the property division phase of a divorce. The lawyer can provide professional guidance, keep you informed of likely outcomes and help you present the best arguments and presentation to the trial judge handling the divorce.