Figuring out asset division can be a tough part of any divorce. Understanding how Missouri law generally approaches this issue can help you get a clearer picture of what you can expect.
Every divorce involves different personalities, priorities and types of assets. Thus, instead of a strict by-the-numbers approach, judges typically consider a variety of factors. Even if it is your goal to ultimately avoid litigation, knowing the basic framework can give you a basis for planning negotiations.
Defining marital assets
Before beginning the division process, courts first determine which assets are marital and which are separate. Only marital assets are subject to division.
Generally, property either spouse acquired throughout the duration of the marriage counts as a marital asset. However, several exceptions exist. If one spouse receives a gift or inheritance, that property stays separate, as does any asset acquired in exchange for the gift or inheritance. However, part of a separate asset can become marital, for example, if the other spouse contributes to an increase in value. Spouses can also agree in writing that specific assets will remain separate. It is important to note that these rules apply independently of the names on the title.
What influences division
Rather than just splitting marital assets evenly, courts strive to distribute them in a way that is the fairest to everyone. This may work out to an equal split in some cases, but not in others. When making their decision, courts look at factors such as the spouses' contributions to the marriage and the property (including non-financial contributions such as raising the children), their current earning capacity and assets, and childcare responsibilities. In Missouri, courts may also consider fault, including non-economic fault, so actions like having an affair can affect division.
Considering your options
As you can see, many complicated issues can come up when addressing property distribution. Consulting an experienced attorney can give you more insight into the situation and help you define your goals for this process. In addition to litigation, divorcing spouses may choose to resolve this and other issues via mediation or negotiation.