Distinguishing between marital and separate property

Before couples can divide their property in a divorce, they must first understand the difference between marital and separate property.

While some couples who file for divorce in Missouri have a relatively easy time separating their property and assets, there are others who have a harder time determining who is entitled to what in the final divorce settlement. In most divorce cases, not all property and assets are created equal. Some property is dispersed according to Missouri's equitable distribution law, and other items may be kept by the original owner. When people know the difference between marital and separate property, they can become better prepared for the task of property division.

Separate property: What's mine is mine

Items, property and assets that a person owns before they become married may stay with that person, even after they become divorced. This property is referred to as separate and it is not eligible for distribution in a divorce as long as it is kept separated from any marital property or funds. According to Missouri statutes, separate property may include inheritance funds or third-party gifts that were awarded to either party before or during the marriage, as well as property owned prior to the marital union.

There are situations where separate property may mix with marital property, which causes it to lose its separate status. For instance, if one spouse owned a home prior to becoming married and kept the home's title in only his or her name, it could be considered separate property. The home would not have to be divided once the couple divorced. Yet, if the original owner added the other spouse's name to the property's title, it would then convert to marital property.

Marital property

Although marital property includes all items, property and assets that were accumulated during the marriage, there are some less common items that people may not consider when distributing property. According to Forbes, marital property also includes the following:

• Classic car, antique, art, coin and other costly collections

• Money acquired from trademarks, patents or copyrights

• Term life insurance, 401k plans, pensions, stocks and other investment earnings

• Country club memberships, travel points and other rewards earned

• Gifts given to one another during the marriage

Couples who co-own a business have more choices to make, such as whether they would like to sell or continue running the business.

You may require legal assistance

While some divorce cases are easily settled out of court, not all situations are cut and dry. If you have questions regarding property division or any other divorce topic, you may want to speak to an attorney. A lawyer who understands how the divorce process works in Missouri may help offer legal assistance to you during this difficult time.