In the State of Missouri there are specific factors the Court is to consider in dividing marital property. The factors are specified in Missouri Revised Statute Section 452.330, but they include the financial circumstances of the parties, the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the property, the amount of non-marital property awarded to each spouse, each spouse’s conduct during the marriage and the custodial arrangement of any minor children.
The court will consider these factors in dividing marital property and marital debts in such proportions as the court deems just. The court may consider other relevant factors as well but must (shall) consider the preceding factors.
While it is not that uncommon for a Judge to simply divide marital property by awarding 50% of value of the marital estate to each spouse, there are circumstances where a 50 -50 division is not equitable (fair) in the Judge’s eyes and a different result may occur.
What About The Circumstance Where One Spouse Owns Property Before The Marriage, But That Property Was Subsequently Converted Into Marital Property?
As discussed in our previous blogs, there are circumstances where non-marital property can be converted into marital property. This most commonly occurs through re-titling an asset or commingling non-marital assets with marital assets.
Under these circumstances a judge may be inclined to heavily weigh the second relevant factor in dividing that particular asset, namely “The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker”.
For example, when real estate or an investment account is brought into the marriage, but later re-titled adding the name of the other spouse and the value of that asset at the time of marriage is the majority of its current value, the court may be inclined to order a division of this marital asset which awards the majority of its value to the original owning spouse. Likewise, a spouse who invests a significant inheritance in a jointly titled or commingled asset may be awarded a greater share of that asset. However, the first step will be proving the value of the asset and what relative contributions to its value were made by each spouse.
It is important to note, that your judge will have broad discretion in how much weight he gives this factor as compared to the other relevant factors including those detailed in Section 452.330 and other factors such as the length of the parties’ marriage. Therefore if you have this circumstance, it is important that you discuss with your attorney how much weight your judge is likely to give it. But, your judge may award a higher percentage of the marital property to the party who contributed more to acquiring that asset.
The preceding blog should not be taken as advice on your particular situation. The division of property in the divorce process can be very complex and will be governed by the particulars of your situation along with the specific views of the Judge who is presiding over your particular case. Therefore, it is critical that you work with legal counsel who is experienced and educated on the law as well as one who has insight into how your Judge views the particular circumstances of your property division.
For a specific discussion of your circumstances with an experienced Missouri Family Law Attorney please contact our office today.