If you’re facing divorce in Missouri, you’re probably wondering how the state’s divorce laws will affect your assets and how your property will be divided between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. This article, presented by The Law Firm of Kenneth L. Jamison, will take a look at some key points to keep in mind as you navigate through this process, which can be emotional and complicated, regardless of how much you have and what state you live in.
How Are Assets Divided?
In Missouri, the Courts divide assets and debts between divorcing spouses using what’s called an equitable distribution method. This legal concept means that the Court will divide a married couple’s assets equitably, meaning in fairness, which is not necessarily equal division. In fact, Missouri law says marital property must be divided so as to be fair and equitable, taking into consideration many factors, such as the economic circumstances of each spouse, the conduct of each spouse, the value of the marital property and whether each spouse will support minor children. If a married couple can reach an agreement that divides their assets equitably, pursuant to the standards set forth by Missouri law, then it will not be necessary for a judge to make the decision about who gets what. However, if the couple cannot reach an agreement, then the division of property will be decided by a judge, who will divide the assets in accordance with the law.
Divorcing couples must divide their assets which are made up of the following property types:
– real property, such as land and homes
– personal property, such as bank accounts, jewelry, automobiles, retirement assets, clothing, furniture, and collectibles
Property is further broken down into the categories of marital and non-marital assets.
Marital Vs. Non-Marital Assets
In Missouri, marital assets are defined as all property acquired by either spouse during their marriage. It makes no difference if the property is in one spouse’s name, or both. The law assumes that a property is equally owned by both spouses if either of them acquired it at any time after their wedding. Examples of marital property would be a couple’s home purchased while married, the furniture they purchase for their marital home and any vehicles acquired while they were married. A non-marital, or separate, asset is any property that was acquired prior to the marriage and belongs to only one spouse. An example of a non-marital asset is jewelry that one spouse acquired before the marriage. The court cannot divide non-marital property, as it stays with the spouse who owns it. Also included in the non-marital asset category is any property gifted specifically to one spouse during the marriage, and any inherited property that was passed via inheritance to one spouse only during the marriage. Under Missouri law, real and personal property is assumed marital unless one party can prove that it is non-marital.
As previously discussed, assets acquired during a marriage are considered marital property in Missouri. Likewise, all debt accumulated during the marriage is considered marital debt. Just as with marital assets, during Missouri divorce proceedings, marital debt is divided by agreement, or by the decision of a family court judge in the event the parties are unable to agree to acceptable terms. The standard of equitable distribution also applies to marital debt division, which the law states is fair and equitable after considering relevant factors, such as each party’s economic situation, income or income potential, conduct and custodial arrangements if children are involved.
In Missouri family law, retirement plans are subject to property division during divorce. If you or your spouse has a pension, 401(k), IRA or any other retirement asset, all or some portion of the assets in the plan are divisible in the divorce proceeding. Dividing retirement assets can be very complex and require a special mechanism to calculate the value each spouse is entitled to. For many plans this mechanism is a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). A QDRO is a legal order that divides and transfers ownership of retirement assets. Often, a separate attorney who specializes only in drafting QDROs, will draft this legal document. It is presented to the judge for approval and then reviewed by the retirement plan administrator for compliance with the terms of the plan. You should discuss your retirement plan, and/or that of your spouse, with your family law attorney, who can help you determine if you need a QDRO drafted as part of your divorce case.
Choose The Right Divorce Lawyer
If you are considering filing for divorce in Missouri, or if your spouse has filed for divorce, The Law Firm of Kenneth L. Jamison, located in Liberty, Missouri, can help you navigate the complexities of property division to ensure you receive your fair share of the assets. Our experienced family law attorneys are ready to represent you and help guide you through the emotional and complicated issues that can arise during divorce. Reach out to our firm online or call us for your free consultation at (816) 200-7436.