Often couples have a difficult time reaching an agreement regarding how to divide their property. It is important to consult with an experienced divorce attorney for assistance if you anticipate the division of property as a controversial issue in your divorce.
States have specific rules regarding the division of property and vary from state to state. Also, the division of property depends on the complexity of your assets as well as liabilities. Each state utilizes one of two systems for distributing property:
- Equitable Distribution, or
- Community Property
Missouri uses the “Equitable Distribution” method, sometimes called a “separate property”, “common law”, or “non-community property”. Equitable distribution has three steps:
- Categorizing property as marital or separate assets;
- Evaluating the property;
- Distributing it to each spouse.
Usually, anything acquired from the date the marriage was legalized to the date of separation is included in the “marital assets” category.
Most states use an equitable distribution system to divide marital property. States that use this system attempt to divide the property fairly between the spouses. That doesn't mean equally. The goal is to achieve an equitable, or fair, distribution.
Factors of Property Division
There are several factors the court uses to determine how to arrive at an equitable distribution of the property. These include:
- Earning Power of Each Spouse
A spouse with a lower earning power may receive a higher percentage of marital assets.
- Actual Earnings
When one spouse was more responsible for the creation of marital assets, courts may look to compensate that spouse in some way for the value of the assets created, particularly in awarding ownership of family-owned businesses.
- Homemaker Services
Courts now recognize the value that a stay-at-home parent brings to a marriage and seeks to reward that contribution at marital termination.
- Waste of Assets
If one spouse has consumed or wasted more money during the marriage, a court may assign "economic fault" to that spouse upon marital dissolution. Other considerations include the length of the marriage, the age and health of the two spouses, tax consequences on property division, and the terms of any premarital agreements.
An individual’s conduct which contributes to the breakdown of the marriage (e.g. adultery, drugs, alcohol or gambling) is a factor considered by the Court when dividing property.
Contact Divorce Attorney Mike Watkins to schedule a FREE Consultation and learn how Missouri law applies to your specific situation.