With Christmas just a week away, many Americans have consumerism on the brain. While some of your most treasured possessions may have been a gift at one time, it’s not always easy to remember how and when your first acquired the things you own. This is particularly true when you have been married for a number of years and have comingled assets with your spouse.
For this and other reasons, property division can be one of the trickiest aspects of divorce. Some possessions will only be wanted/used by one spouse and are therefore easy to divide. But big-ticket items, shared assets and comingled finances may prove to be much more complicated.
Missouri is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that during divorce, shared assets and debts are to be divided equitably (though not necessarily 50-50). Marital property is any property jointly owned and therefore subject to division. With few exceptions, Missouri law considers marital property to be any property acquired (by either spouse) during the course of the marriage.
If a couple legally separates before getting divorced, property obtained after legal separation would not be considered marital property. There are some other exceptions to the marital property laws as well. They include:
- Anything specified as separate property in a written agreement, usually a prenuptial agreement
- Anything given to just one spouse as a gift or as an inheritance (in a will or bequest)
- Any property that was exchanged for other property acquired before the marriage
Missouri law also places conditions on whether or not the increase in the value of pre-marital property is subject to division. As a rule of thumb, increased value on property owned prior to marriage is not subject to division unless the value was increased using marital assets.
If you are considering divorce and want to protect certain assets from division, there may be ways to use documentation and other evidence to show that the property should be considered separate. An experienced family law attorney can help you through this process.