One of the most contentious aspects of most modern divorce cases is property division, or the formal legal process of dividing marital assets and debts in divorce. Every state enforces different statutes for handling property division, and Missouri is one of many US states to enforce an equitable distribution law. This means a divorcing couple must split their marital property in the fairest possible way.

While the equitable distribution principle may seem fair and straightforward, divorcing spouses rarely agree as to what is “fair” regarding the division of their property. State law enables both parties to retain ownership of their respective separate property, but the spouses could present conflicting claims over specific assets. They may also try to deflect liability for one another’s debts, which are divided equally in the same manner as marital assets.

Ultimately, no matter what other issues your divorce may entail, property division is likely to raise several difficult questions you may not be able to answer on your own. For example, the following are some of the most common questions people have about property division in Springfield, MO, divorce cases:

Q: Will My Spouse Take Half of My Property?

A: Many people mistakenly believe that divorcing means parting with half of everything you own. Some states do enforce community property laws that require a strict 50/50 division of marital property in divorce, but even in these divorces, the spouses are unlikely to obtain completely equal shares. The exact nature of your property division determination depends on the unique details of your divorce as well as your financial situation and that of your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Q: Can My Spouse and I Resolve Property Division Privately?

A: Many divorcing couples in Missouri and across the United States are choosing alternative dispute resolution to handle their divorces, avoiding the stress, expense, and time required to complete divorce litigation. While some couples may not be able to resolve every issue they face privately, collaborative divorce or divorce mediation can be invaluable tools for any divorcing couple, saving them time and money on their case. Additionally, they will have more influence over the outcome than they would if a judge decided everything in litigation.

Q: How Does Equitable Distribution Work in Missouri Divorce Cases?

A: When a divorcing couple chooses to negotiate property division privately, they typically dictate what would be the most mutually beneficial and fairest division of their assets and debts. However, they must bring their property division dispute before a judge if they cannot agree to terms. State law requires the judge to review multiple factors, such as the work history, employability, and current income of each spouse, their respective contributions toward the marriage and their household, whether they have children, and their respective custody rights. After calculating the full range of the couple’s property and debt, the judge assigns separate ownership to each element at their discretion.

Q: What Happens If Someone Lies in Property Division?

A: Every divorce case requires financial disclosure from both spouses. This means you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse need to submit complete and accurate financial records to the court. You must use these records to prove the extent of the property and debt you share with your spouse and your separate property. Unfortunately, some divorcing spouses attempt to hide assets to shield them from division, or they may conceal their separate property to appear more deserving of a greater share of marital property or spousal support. If you have any reason to suspect that your spouse has lied in their financial disclosure, it’s imperative to raise this concern with an experienced divorce attorney who can help you uncover the truth.

Q: What Are the Penalties for Lying in Financial Disclosure?

A: If a divorcing spouse deliberately conceals any information they are legally required to divulge to the court, this can lead to them facing contempt of court and many severe penalties. Depending on the scope and severity of their actions, they could face heavy fines or even jail time. If the other spouse incurred greater legal expenses to uncover their malfeasance, they might also face liability for their attorneys’ fees. It is never worth trying to conceal assets in Missouri divorce proceedings, given the severity of the penalties you will face when caught.

Q: How Does Child Custody Influence Property Division?

A: When divorcing parents must resolve custody, their custody determination and property division determination could be closely connected. For example, if one parent assumes a greater share of physical custody, they will have a stronger claim over the marital home. If the children are going to be spending the majority of their time with the custodial parent, a judge would likely deem it most sensible to let the custodial parent retain ownership over the family home.

Child custody determination also requires addressing child support. Both parents are expected to contribute equally to their child’s financial needs and basic living expenses. When one parent assumes greater custody than the other, the other is likely to owe them child support each month. This financial arrangement could bear on property division as a judge is likely to address child custody and support before resolving property division.

Q: Is It Necessary to Hire a Divorce Attorney?

A: It’s reasonable to wonder whether you need to hire an attorney for your impending divorce, especially if you think you and your spouse are agreeable enough to negotiate terms privately. No matter what your divorce entails or how you may anticipate it unfolding, reliable legal counsel is an invaluable asset. A good legal team significantly improves the chances of reaching the most favorable results for your case. Additionally, they can assist you with all aspects of your property division proceedings.

In a Missouri divorce, both spouses must submit financial disclosure statements to the court when they litigate or reconcile their respective financial records privately in alternative dispute resolution. In either case, legal representation is an indispensable asset that can help a divorcing spouse make more confident and informed decisions about property division. The sooner you connect with a Springfield, MO, divorce attorney, the sooner you can get the answers to your most pressing legal questions.