How do I keep nonmarital property separated?

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Property Division on Friday, April 8, 2016.

As we have discussed before in this blog, when a Missouri couple gets divorced, most property they own gets equitably divided between them. But only “marital” property, or property legally considered to belong to both spouses, is subject to division. Non-marital property, or things that belong to one spouse alone, goes to that spouse solely.

The obvious question, then, is how do we tell the difference between marital and non-marital property? Most of us have a bank account before we get married, and some people have a highly substantial amount of money saved up. But after getting married, it is common for spouses to open a joint checking account.

At that point, the spouses’ money becomes “commingled,” and the entire account is considered marital property, even if one spouse’s contribution was much larger than the other’s. This is meant to prevent confusion, but it may also lead to some people planning to get married to ask how to keep some of their property separate, in case of divorce.

Beyond keeping title to accounts and real estate in your name alone, it is important to be careful how you spend your nonmarital property. If both of you contribute to the mortgage payments, or on renovations to the house, it may be possible for the spouse whose name is not on the title to claim that the house has become marital property.

Of course, another option for those concerned about the financial consequences of divorce is to enter into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. A consultation with a family law attorney can provide clarity and peace of mind.

Source:, “How to Stay Together While Keeping Your Money Separate,” Rebecca Zung, March 15, 2016

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