At Brydon, Swearengen & England P.C., we are here to help you understand how Missouri courts classify property in a divorce and how that property may be divided.

Types of Property in a Missouri Divorce Proceeding

In Missouri divorce proceedings, the court will sort property, or assets, into one of two categories:

· (1) marital property; or

· (2) nonmarital, or separate, property.

Marital Property

The general rule is that marital property consists of all property that either spouse acquired while married to the other. There is a rebuttable presumption that all property acquired by either spouse after the marriage and before a decree of legal separation or dissolution of marriage is marital property, regardless of whether title is held individually or by the spouses in some form of co-ownership.

There are, however, several exceptions to this general rule.

Nonmarital Property

Nonmarital, or separate, property is property that is not marital property (e.g., property acquired prior to marriage). A qualified lawyer can offer valuable assistance with identifying or safeguarding nonmarital property.

Complexities of Classifying Property

The characterization of property as marital or nonmarital may be subject to change. Property may be transmuted from marital to nonmarital or vice versa, meaning that the character of the property may change either from marital to nonmarital or from nonmarital to marital.

Characterizing property can also become complicated when one spouse commingles their nonmarital property with marital property. Generally, property that otherwise would be nonmarital property does not become marital property

solely because it may have been commingled with marital property. But, if a party has the intent, real or apparent, to make their property marital property, then the court may conclude that it is marital property.

The distinction between marital and nonmarital property may determine how property is divided between parties in a divorce. To best understand these classifications and how they apply to you and your situation, you should consult a qualified divorce attorney.

So, Who Gets What, and How Is That Decided?

In Missouri, division of property in divorces is resolved by a court order resulting from either an agreement between the parties or the court’s decision.

When the parties can compromise and resolve their dispute without involving the court, through avenues such as negotiation or mediation, the parties enter into a marital settlement agreement, which reflects their agreement to, among other things, the division of property, and then will commonly be approved by the court. When proceeding this way, the parties have more control over the situation than they would if they were to let a judge decide the issues on their own. Parties should, however, still work with an experienced lawyer who can advise or represent them.

If the court gets involved, it will first set apart each spouse’s nonmarital property and then divide the marital property. The court will divide marital property with the goal of obtaining a “just division.” While the division of property must be just, it need not be equal. In awarding marital property, the court will consider all relevant factors but, ultimately, has discretion in deciding what is a just division.

Going through a divorce can be difficult and confusing, but our experienced divorce attorneys at Brydon, Swearengen & England P.C. in Jefferson City can help answer your questions, address your concerns, and guide you through the process. Contact us to get the support you need today.