To answer whether Missouri is a community property or equitable distribution state, you need to understand what these two systems mean in the context of divorce.
What is a Community Property State?
Community property is a legal system that defines marital assets as belonging to both spouses equally. No matter who earned each dollar spent or saved, all money earned during the marriage, with very few exceptions, belongs equally to both spouses. All debts, with very few exceptions, acquired during the marriage belong equally to both spouses, too.
Once an asset has been classified as either community or separate property (separate property is owned exclusively by one spouse), it cannot be divided between spouses without going through complicated court proceedings.
What is an Equitable Distribution State?
In essence, this system describes when a judge determines which assets should go to whom based on what was agreed upon between the two parties during their divorce proceedings or what the court deems equitable.
Is Missouri an Equitable Distribution State?
Yes, Missouri uses the equitable distribution system. This means that in Missouri, marital property will be divided equitably between both spouses. This often does mean that an equal distribution is ordered by the court.
Some exceptions exist. For example, suppose the spouse with more income paid for some of their partner’s debts or expenses during the marriage. In these cases, the court may decide that one spouse should receive more than 50% of their share of marital property because of what they did during the marriage (i.e., buying things for themselves with their money).
Understanding an Equitable Distribution State
The court will divide property between spouses as fairly and equitably as possible in an equitable distribution state. But this also means both parties may not receive an equal share of the marital property. The court will consider the following factors addition to other factors:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of each spouse
- The income and earning capacity of each spouse, including educational background, employment skills, and employability (potential wage-earning ability)
- Whether either party has custody of children who require substantial care from them (as opposed to minor or infrequent child care)
In addition to each factor, the court will also consider whether one spouse’s career was affected by domestic duties or parenting responsibilities during marriage. The court can evaluate whether one party contributed to maintaining the family property, such as cooking meals for others or paying bills on their behalf.
Effect of Non-Monetary Contributions
In an equitable distribution state like Missouri, non-monetary contributions may be considered “equitable” too.
In other words, if you make significant contributions to your marriage (such as taking care of children or housework), those contributions are considered part of your marital assets. The conduct of the parties will be considered when deciding what an equitable distribution means.
How A Prenuptial Agreement Affects Division of Property
In Missouri, a prenuptial agreement is enforceable. This means that if you and your spouse have signed one before marriage, the court can uphold it in the event of divorce.
People can use prenuptial agreements to avoid community property division and equitable distribution. In other words, they can help you protect your assets from being split with your spouse after divorce.
Prenuptial agreements are enforceable in Missouri because the court has recognized them as valid contracts under state law since 1971.
Contact Our Missouri Divorce Lawyers Regarding Property Division
If you live in a state like Missouri, where divorce law requires equitable distribution of assets, it’s essential to understand precisely how this works so you can make informed decisions about your future during the divorce process.
Talk to an attorney who understands how the process works and can help protect your rights during divorce. Schedule an appointment today with Aramjoo Law Firm for representation and counsel about how to navigate your divorce in Missouri.
Property Division FAQs
Do Missouri courts consider a spouse’s contributions to their partner’s education during a divorce settlement?
Yes. Missouri courts will consider contributions to your spouse’s education when dividing assets during divorce settlements. To do this, you must prove that you contributed to their education.
How does financial misconduct affect a settlement?
Suppose one spouse wastefully spends all their marital money on gambling or other vice activities or makes unreasonable demands for alimony payments or child support costs during their marriage. In that case, this may be grounds for recognizing an unequal property division.