Property Division Lawyer in St. Charles
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When two people decide to dissolve their marriage and file for divorce, there are many issues which must be discussed. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as signing a document - you must discuss such tumultuous issues such as how your property will be divided. Many forget that property includes both assets and debts. Property division is possibly one of the most disputed matters, especially in cases where one or both parties have valuable assets or there is significant debt.
It is advisable to retain the services of a St. Charles attorney to represent you and protect your property, especially in a high-asset divorce. At Smith Law Offices, LLC, we are highly knowledgeable and have over 30 years of combined experience in handling matters of divorce. We work personally alongside our clients to create legal strategies that truly fit their unique situation, always placing their priorities at the focus of our representation.
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Types of Property Under Missouri State Law
Property division can be completed through the negotiation process outside of court, which can lead to a more definite outcome, or it can be argued in court. Once you and your spouse have come to an agreement, you will sign a settlement agreement which is a document that states who will receive what assets.
Property is typically put into two different categories, including:
- Marital property: All property which was acquired during the marriage, subject to some exceptions. This may include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. If you have debt, this is considered part of your martial property as well.
- Separate property: Assets or debts which were acquired prior to the marriage, subject to some exceptions. Generally speaking this includes inheritances and gifts. This could also include settlements or awards which were given in a lawsuit or items which were considered to be owned by just one spouse, not the other.
What Is Equitable Distribution?
Missouri’s laws of equitable distribution state that when a couple divorces, their marital assets will be divided in a way that is fairest for both spouses. Note that “equitable” does not necessarily mean “equal” but proportionate to how much each spouse contributed to building those assets over the course of the marriage. As St. Charles attorneys, we are dedicated to helping our clients find the answers to any complex matter involved with their divorce.
Please feel free to contact our St. Charles divorce firm if you have any questions.
Separate vs. Marital Property
It will be up to a judge to discern between marital property versus separate property. Every couple’s circumstances will be different from another’s. What will make the process easier if each couple has made agreements to divide their assets beforehand, such as in a prenuptial agreement or during mediation. The judge will be much quicker to approve the proceedings.
Marital property includes the following:
- Property that was acquired prior to marriage
- Property acquired after legal separation
- Any gifts or inheritances that were given solely to one spouse
- Property exchanged during the marriage that belonged solely to one spouse
- The spouses have made an agreement in writing regarding the treatment of separate property
As an example, let’s say that you made an investment before you were married. That investment begins growing in value over the duration of your marriage because you are the one contributing to it. You will be the one to retain the full value of that investment. However, if your spouse contributed at any point during the marriage, then they have a stake in those assets. Therefore, that investment becomes marital property.
Hidden Assets in Property Division
In property division cases, both parties have a fiduciary duty to each other. That means that neither party can sell, tamper with, destroy, or otherwise impact separate or marital property during a divorce without notifying the court, their spouse, and gaining consent from those entities.
Spouses must also fully disclose all separate and marital assets they possess to one another during the property division process.
Sometimes, spouses violate their fiduciary duty by misrepresenting the separate or marital property they own in an attempt to obtain a more favorable judgment from the court.
Some common ways spouses hide assets during property division disputes include:
- Taking out "loans" from friends that they don't actually intend to pay back, in an attempt to make it appear as though they are in worse financial straights than they really are;
- Liquidating funds to acquire assets such as artwork or liquor that they know will appreciate in value, then hiding those assets in an attempt to re-sell them post-divorce after obtaining a favorable property division outcome;
- Funneling funds acquired through tips or business revenue through an employee or friend, with the intent to claim those funds post-divorce;
- Intentionally undervaluing separate or marital property, sometimes with the assistance of fraudulent asset valuations from a third party professional.
If you believe your spouse may try and hide assets, you should contact your attorney. Most attorneys have access to third party professionals, such as forensic accountants, who can help you determine whether assets are being hidden and - if so - reporting your spouse's breach of fiduciary duty to the court.
Our property division attorneys will stick by you throughout every stage of your case, fighting for your rights and helping you obtain the best outcome in your property division case.
Should I Hire a Property Division Attorney?
Understandably, your divorce is going to be an overwhelming time and there will be much to think about. Our St. Charles family lawyer can help you make sense of the situation, especially when it comes to financial matters and divorces. Smith Law Offices, PLLC possess over 30 years of collective experience, and we work with families one on one to help them find the ideal solution to their family law or divorce matter.
Don't hesitate to contact us about your case. Contact us today to request a free case consultation.
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