Dividing property is part of every divorce and legal separation. But how does a judge determine who should get what?
In Missouri, marital property is subject to what the law calls, “equitable distribution.” This means that all marital property (property acquired during your marriage) must be divided in a way that is fair–although not necessarily equal.
Many may be surprised to learn that property ownership is not determined solely by whose name is on the title. The court will look at other factors, too, such as how and when the property was acquired, and the source of funds used to purchase it.
Non-marital property, i.e. property received as a gift, through inheritance, or due to a prenuptial agreement, is “set aside” to its owner.
The first step is to determine what property exists that needs to be divided. This may include household items, vehicles, real estate, and/or businesses. During the discovery process, each spouse will be required to provide a financial statement, including a complete Statement of Income and Expenses and a Statement of Property.
To gather more information, a spouse may request relevant documents such as bank and credit card statements, loan agreements, titles, etc. In some cases, attorneys may issue written interrogatories, schedule depositions, and seek subpoenas. A spouse may ask for access to a home, business, or other property to inspect conditions, appraise value, check inventory, or account for personal property. If an informal request fails, they may seek a court order granting permission to gain entry and conduct an inspection.
When dividing marital property, it is necessary to know the fair market value (FMV) of the property in question. People sometimes have firm ideas about what something is worth but determining FMV may require a professional evaluation or appraisal. Valuations can be complex and expensive, so it is a good idea to work with a trusted, qualified expert. We regularly work with appraisers and business valuators and can recommend one if needed.
When deciding who gets what, a judge will also consider the conduct of each party during the marriage, each spouse’s financial situation, and the contribution of each spouse to the property, including the contributions of any homemaking spouse.
Division of property can be complex. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you navigate the process.
All of us here at Raza & Jones, LLC understand this is a challenging time for our clients. As a family law firm, under St. Louis County’s Order pertaining to COVID-19 we are considered an essential business, and we remain open and available to all our clients. Our entire firm is working remotely, using our Zoom account to meet with clients or speaking by telephone. We are committed to delivering the same high standard of compassionate, effective representation we’re known for, in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Raza & Jones, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions, or to schedule a confidential consultation, call 314-449-8830.