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Property Division

Missouri is not what is commonly referred to as a “community property” state.  Many people make this mistake and assume that when you get married that all of your assets become part of the marital estate and therefore your spouse owns “half” of what you own.  Instead, Missouri is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that if the parties can't reach a mutual agreement concerning the division of the marital estate, the court will distribute the property and liabilities in an equitable, but not necessarily equal fashion. The court will take the following factors into consideration when making its decision: 

• The economic circumstances of each spouse, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse having custody of any children.

• The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker.

• The value of the non-marital property set apart to each spouse.

• The conduct of the parties during the marriage.

• Custodial arrangements for minor children.

• Property not subject to division is considered separate property, and includes:

• Property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent (in other words, an inheritance or gift, usually from a family member).

• Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent.

• Property acquired after a decree of legal separation.

• Property excluded by valid written agreement of the parties.

• The increase in value of property acquired prior to the marriage, unless marital assets including labor, have contributed to such increases and then only to the extent of such contributions.

There are some important lessons to be learned from the information above, all of which is taken directly from the relevant state law.  For example, there is a tendency towards allowing the custodial parent(if children are involved) to remain in the marital home.  This is to cause the least amount of disruption to the children during the divorce. Also, one should never assume that if one spouse owned the marital home prior to marriage that the other spouse has no financial stake in it.  Note that even if your name was never on the deed, you probably contributed to the current value of the home, either by contributing to mortgage payments, providing your services as a homemaker, or helping to improve the property.  And finally, it’s worthy of note that conduct of the parties during the marriage may (and often is) considered by the court when dividing property.  This commonly includes infidelity but may also refer to physical or mental abuse, among other forms of misconduct.