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Separate assets versus marital assets in a divorce

Missouri residents who are considering getting a divorce might be interested to hear about how assets are divided in a divorce. Couples generally have two types of assets: separate assets and marital assets. What spouses are entitled to in divorces depends upon whether their assets are considered separate ones or marital ones by the courts.

Separate assets are those assets that spouses had prior to their marriage. They are also any inheritances that a spouse received, any gifts that a spouse received from a third party and any payments for pain and suffering in personal injury lawsuits. In property division, spouses are not entitled to each other's separate assets.

However, separate assets may become marital assets. For example, if a spouse received an inheritance and then deposited the funds into a joint account with his or her spouse, then courts will likely treat the funds as a marital asset. Marital assets are essentially any assets that a couple accumulated together during their marriage. Marital assets can even be assets that are only titled in one spouse's name. For example, retirement plans, stock options, country club memberships, 401Ks, commissions and many other types of assets are considered marital assets no matter whose name they are in as long as they were procured while the couple was married.

Another factor that can influence how assets are divided in a divorce is whether the state the couple is divorcing in is a community property state or an equitable distribution state. Missouri is an equitable distribution state, so assets are divided among spouses based upon a variety of factors in an effort to make the division as fair as possible. Community property states, on the other hand, divide assets 50/50 regardless of what each spouse contributed to the marriage and so on. A family law attorney might be able to help divorcing couples understand their options and come to a divorce settlement that they can both agree on.

Source: Huffington Post, "Understanding How Assets Get Divided In Divorce", Jeff Landers, June 14, 2013