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Divorce & the Marital Home

Because the Marital Home is often the largest asset in a household, it naturally becomes an important issue and whether you or your spouse, or neither of you, end up with the house is governed by many factors.

We must begin with the types of property considered in a divorce. In Missouri, the law recognizes two types of property – separate and marital. Separate property is the property of one spouse obtained prior to the marriage. Marital property is property the parties obtained during the marriage. Sometimes a party can convert separate property to marital property by, for example, titling a house purchased prior to the marriage jointly in the names of both parties. One challenge in dividing property is untangling commingled property.

If the marital home was purchased by one spouse prior to the marriage and never converted to joint ownership, the marital home remains the separate property of the purchasing spouse. However, any contributions made to the maintenance and upkeep of the home, any home improvements, and the payment of the mortgage that were made by the non-purchasing spouse would be considered an asset subject to division.

If the marital home was converted to marital property during the marriage or purchased during the marriage, untangling ownership becomes even more difficult as the parties try to justify their individual contributions and quantify them in a dollar amount.

If the parties have children who have been in the marital home for some time, the court may consider that the home follow the children.

If the parties find that neither can maintain the mortgage on the home alone nor secure a refinance, the court may have no choice but to order the sale of the home.

Whichever option the court chooses, the court will have to assign specific financial shares in the value of the home to each party as it attempts to structure an equitable division of the marital property. In making such a decision, the court considers the economic circumstances of each party at the time of dissolution, the contribution of each spouse to the marital home, the value of the separate property of each party, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, and the custodial arrangements for the children.

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