June 30

Marital Property Division in Missouri


Divorce is a complex emotional and legal process that can be particularly stressful when it comes to dividing marital assets and debts. In Missouri, a state known for its "equitable distribution" approach, understanding how property is divided becomes crucial for a fair and smooth resolution. This guide explores the intricacies of marital property division in Missouri, empowering you with knowledge to navigate this challenging aspect of divorce.

Equitable Distribution of Marital Property: Fairness Over Equality

Unlike community property states where assets acquired during marriage are automatically split 50/50, Missouri operates under an "equitable distribution" system. This means the court will divide marital property and debts in a way it deems fair and just, considering various factors. "Fair" doesn't necessarily equate to "equal." The judge will analyze your circumstances to determine a distribution that reflects what's fair for both parties.

Here's what the court considers when dividing marital property:

  • The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the divorce. This includes factors like income, earning potential, employment status, and debts owed by each spouse.
  • The contributions of each spouse to the acquisition of marital property. This includes financial contributions but also non-monetary contributions like homemaking or childcare.
  • The value of each spouse's non-marital property. This refers to assets owned by either spouse before the marriage or acquired through inheritance or gift during the marriage.
  • The conduct of each spouse during the marriage. Conduct that may be considered a factor in marital misconduct, such as excessive spending or infidelity—may influence the division of assets.
  • The needs of the custodial parent and any minor children. Ensuring the children's well-being is prioritized when dividing assets that may impact their living situation.

Marital Property vs. Non-Marital Property in MO: Understanding the Distinction

The first step in equitable distribution is distinguishing between marital and non-marital property.

Marital Property 

Marital property generally includes all assets and debts acquired during the marriage up to the date of the final divorce decree (known as "dissolution of marriage" in Missouri). Here are some examples:

  • Real estate (house, land, condo, etc.) acquired during the marriage.
  • Vehicles purchased during the marriage, even if titled in one spouse's name.
  • Household furnishings and appliances acquired during the marriage.
  • Bank and investment accounts established during the marriage are considered marital property, and any contributions or interest earned during the marriage are also considered marital property.
  • Retirement accounts accumulated during the marriage (may be subject to specific division rules).
  • Business interests acquired or developed during the marriage.
  • Debts incurred during marriage such as mortgages, credit card debt, or personal loans.

Non-marital Property

Non-marital property refers to assets and debts that belong to one spouse separately and are not subject to equitable distribution. Here are some examples:

  • Assets owned by one spouse before the marriage (e.g., inheritance, family gifts).
  • Assets acquired with separate funds during the marriage (e.g., inheritance received during marriage).
  • Debts incurred by one spouse before the marriage.
  • Property acquired through separate inheritance or gift during the marriage (if the inheritance or gift remains titled solely in the receiving spouse's name).
  • It's important to note that the distinction between marital and non-marital property can be complex. Consulting with a knowledgeable family law attorney in Missouri is crucial to ensure your rights are protected, and your assets are divided fairly.

The Role of Evidence in Marital Property Division in Missouri

The court relies on the evidence presented by both parties to determine the value of marital assets and debts. This evidence can include:

  • Bank statements and investment account statements.
  • Real estate appraisals.
  • Vehicle registration and title documents.
  • Receipts for major purchases.
  • Retirement account statements.
  • Debt documentation (e.g., credit card statements, loan agreements).

It's in your best interest to gather and organize all relevant financial documentation to support your case and ensure the court has a clear picture of your financial situation.

The Power of Premarital Agreements: Planning for the Future

While not mandatory, a premarital agreement (prenup) can be a valuable tool to avoid potential disputes during divorce. This legal document allows couples to contractually stipulate how marital property and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce. A well-drafted prenup can provide peace of mind and protect separate assets brought into the marriage.

Key Aspects to Consider when Drafting a Premarital Agreement

  • Full financial disclosure: Both parties must disclose their complete financial information before entering into a premarital agreement. This transparency ensures fairness and prevents future challenges to the agreement's validity.
  • Consultation with legal counsel: Each spouse should have independent legal representation to ensure they understand the implications of the agreement and their rights are protected.
  • Fairness and reasonableness: The prenup terms should be fair and reasonable for both parties. Courts may strike down prenups deemed unfair or coercive.

While prenups can offer benefits, they are not foolproof. Courts may not uphold a prenup if it attempts to waive child support obligations, significantly disadvantage one spouse who lacks independent legal representation, or is found to be unconscionable at the time of divorce.

Mediation and Negotiation: Finding Common Ground

Divorce proceedings can become contentious. Mediation provides an alternative approach where a neutral third party facilitates communication and negotiation between spouses to reach an amicable agreement on property division. Mediation can be a more cost-effective and less stressful alternative to litigation, especially when children are involved.

  • It's vital to seek legal advice before entering mediation to understand your rights and ensure the mediator is qualified and experienced in handling complex marital property division cases.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Navigating the intricacies of marital property division in Missouri can be challenging. An experienced family law attorney in Missouri can provide invaluable guidance and representation throughout the divorce process. Your attorney  can:

  • Advise you on your rights and legal options.
  • Gather and organize relevant documentation.
  • Negotiate a fair settlement regarding property division.
  • Represent you in court if necessary.
  • Ensure the terms of your divorce decree are clear and enforceable.

Investing in legal representation can save you time, money, and significant emotional stress in the long run.

Moving Forward with Clarity and Confidence

Divorce is a challenging experience, and the division of marital assets can add additional complexity. By understanding Missouri's equitable distribution principles, the distinction between marital and non-marital property, and the benefits of premarital agreements, mediation, and legal representation, you empower yourself to navigate this process with greater clarity and confidence.


  • Gather all relevant financial documents.
  • Consult with a knowledgeable Missouri family law attorney.
  • Consider mediation as an alternative dispute resolution approach.
  • Prioritize a fair and reasonable settlement for both parties.

By taking proactive steps and seeking guidance, you can emerge from this challenging experience with a clear resolution and a path toward a secure future.

Trust Lecour Family Law 

Are you facing legal matters related to adoption, child support, divorce, child custody, or paternity in St. Charles, Lincoln, Warren, or St. Louis Counties? Look no further than Lecour Family Law. Our experienced team of family law attorneys is dedicated to providing you with the representation you deserve. We understand the stress and emotional turmoil that can come with family law issues, which is why we work tirelessly to ensure your rights are protected and your needs are met. Don't face these challenges on your own – let us help! Contact us today at (636) 685-0440 to schedule a consultation and see how we can assist you. 


You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Get in touch

0 of 350