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Missouri Property Division
Property Distribution Laws in Missouri

In Missouri the courts generally accept a fair and reasonable property division the parties agree to, but if the parties cannot agree, the Circuit Court divides the property within the Judgment of Divorce.

Missouri is an equitable distribution state. Equitable does not mean equal, or even half, but rather what the Circuit Court considers fair. It uses the dual classification model, and the appreciation of separate property is separate.

Factors in Equitable Distribution

The Circuit court considers all relevant factors, including:

  • the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, 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; and
  • the custodial arrangements for minor children.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

According to Missouri Statutes - Title 30 - Chapter 452, Section 330, marital property can be defined as all property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage except:

  • property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
  • 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 by a spouse after a decree of legal separation;
  • property excluded by valid written agreement of the parties; and
  • 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.

Valuing and Dividing Property

First, the court classifies assets and liabilities, property and debt, as marital or separate. Then it assigns a monetary value to the marital property and debt. Finally, it distributes the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable fashion.

The Marital Home

In Missouri, as in many jurisdictions, the equity in the marital home is often one of the biggest assets the spouses divide. The equity is the market value of the house, less any debts or liens against it. Equity is established by determining what the current market value of the home is at the time of separation. Once the spouses agree to a current market value, any debts associated with the property (mortgage, taxes, home equity loans, etc.) are deducted from the market value to arrive at the equity to be divided. Normally, making this calculation requires a paid real estate appraisal or a real estate agent can prepare a market analysis for free.

From there, couples choose one of three options to divide the equity:

  • The spouses sell the home and divide the proceeds.
  • One of the parties may refinance the home and “buy out” the other party.
  • One spouse (usually the custodial parent) remains in the home with the exclusive use and possession for a certain period of time (for example, until the youngest child graduates from high school), then either buys out the other spouse or sells the home and divides the proceeds.

Pensions and Retirement Accounts

In Missouri vested pensions are marital property. A pension vests when all the requirements to receive the pension have been met. Unvested pensions are also marital property. Until the pension has vested, the person under whom the pension is maintained has only an expectancy of interest in the pension.

Several different methods of valuation are used in determining how much a marital asset is worth, depending upon the asset to be valued and the level of agreement between the parties. Courts generally accept the value when the spouses mutually agree on a value of a particular asset. Experts may be retained by the parties or by the courts to determine the value of marital assets if the parties cannot agree. Such experts may include accountants, real estate or business appraisers, or pension valuators. The use of experts adds to the cost of the divorce.

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