Can my spouse receive part of my stock options in our divorce?
Stock options can often be valuable assets that come up in the midst of property division in a divorce. The leading case on stock options in Missouri is Warner v. Warner, 46 S.W. 3d 591 (Mo. App. W.D. 2001) where the husband claimed it was error in treating stock options as marital property. He claimed that his stock rights were for future services; they were to vest after divorce; and that their vesting, maturity, and exercise were contingent upon continued employment post divorce. Both the trial court and the appellate court disagreed with him finding that because he had acquired the stock options during marriage they were marital property. Further, the court found that option awards are not always for future service; they may represent compensation for past, present and future services. As you can surmise the wife in Warner did end up receiving a portion of the husband’s stock options.
The practical point here is to determine what the stock options represent and why they were given to the employee/spouse in the first place. If any part of the stock options were for past or present services then it is likely that these will be considered marital property. For more information on this subject check out Beecher v. Beecher, Southern District Court of Appeals, SD32620, January 21, 2014.