Missouri divorce: Dividing large assets requires proper planning

Dealing with divorce in Saint Louis County is one of the hardest experiences a person may have to go through. When there is a great deal of money and property involved, it can be even more difficult as one spouse may try to hide assets or intimidate the other spouse into accepting less than they may be entitled to. It is important for a spouse to make a complete list of the marital property, determine the value of that property and then negotiate for a fair distribution of the couple's assets.

Listing marital property

The first thing that a spouse should do is start compiling a list of anything that is considered marital property. This can include:

  • Family businesses
  • Vacation homes
  • Vehicles
  • Planes
  • Boats
  • Investment properties

In addition, a spouse should include any art or antique furnishings that have value. Items that are exempt from marital property status would be personal gifts, inheritances, property purchased before the marriage began and settlements from personal injury cases.

However, there are exceptions to the separate property rule. For instance, if the other spouse's name was added to an account or to a property, then it could be considered marital property. If separate property like investments, art, or other assets has increased in value, the other spouse may be able to lay a claim on the difference in value. Other items that should be considered are professional licenses, retirement plans and even life and disability insurance.

Debt can also be considered marital property if it was incurred after the marriage date, regardless of which spouse accumulated it. This means that mortgages, credit cards and other obligations should be included in the list of property and will be used against the value of that property for a more realistic overview.

Valuation

Valuation is the next step once all of the marital property has been identified. It is best to have an independent and experienced appraiser perform this task as it can be a complicated process. The appraiser will use a valuation date and this can be the date of the legal separation or a date that the spouses agree on. Once the valuation date is set, it cannot generally be changed and so any increase or decrease in the property's value is non-negotiable in the settlement.

Other factors considered

Missouri is an equitable distribution state and this means that other factors can play a role into how marital property is divided between spouses. These factors include a spouse's contribution towards the success of the other, the financial situation for both spouses, education level and the career status of the spouses.

Spouses should carefully consider their future, the worth of the marital property and their own contributions to that wealth as they negotiate for what they want out of the settlement. Meeting with an experienced attorney will help a spouse protect his or her legal rights and ensure that they receive property that helps them move forward.