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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:
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:
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:
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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