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Marital, Separate and Equitable, but not equal

The characterization of property during a divorce is significant. Your property division will determine your financial future and one element of that division is whether property is marital or separate in Missouri. Separate property, as its name implies typically has as its source something that separates it from jointly held assets. In most cases, inheritances and gifts are separate property.

Marital property makes up the bulk of most couples assets and includes income earned and assets acquired during the marriage. The important to remember during a divorce that marital property in Missouri is subject to an equitable division. And this type of distribution can be quite complex, depending on the length of the marriage and the income of the couple.

The key element of an equitable property distribution is that it need not be equal. If a husband is employed in a position with a significant salary and a wife remained home, caring for the children and never worked outside the home, it is likely that she may receive a larger share of the marital assets. This is because the court presumes her earning ability has been significantly impaired by her separation from the workforce for many years.

With separate assets, it is important to keep them separate, and never comingle with any joint funds. If you deposit an inheritance in a joint savings account or use it to pay for a joint asset, like the mortgage on the family home, it will lose its separate nature and become subject to an equitable division in the event of a divorce.

If you receive any personal property, like grandparents' or parents' wedding rings, heirloom furniture, artwork or the like as part of an inheritance or as gifts, you should document the items when you receive them. Such documentation can prevent disputes when divorce places people on their worst behavior.

Forbes.com, "Divorcing Women: Here's How to Protect Your Inheritances And Gifts," Jeff Landers, August 19, 2014

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