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How do the courts decide property division?

In the United States, there are two ways to divide property during dissolution; however, the type controlling the process is dependent on the state you or your spouse lives in when divorce is filed for. A few states follow "Community Property" laws, meaning that all property is defined as either separate property or community property. Separate property is solely owned by one spouse and community property is owned equally by both spouses. Most states, including Missouri, follow "Equitable Distribution", meaning that a judge will determine who deserves what, depending upon the situation of the marriage.

Community property is generally property that has been collected during the course of the marriage. Separate property may include property owned before the marriage, as well as inheritances, pensions and other similar property. When in the process of a divorce, a judge will consider all factors of the marriage and divide up the property on your behalf. For example, if one spouse is the sole earner in the family and the other spouse surrendered his or her career to take care of kids, the judge may be more inclined to split the property evenly during the property division process.

With regards to the home, if children are involved, the spouse who has custody of the children will typically get to stay in the family home. If no children are involved, things can become more complicated however. It is important to recognize that neither spouse has the right to ask the other spouse to leave; if the decision cannot be made amicably, the courts will make a legally binding decision.

It is crucial that you make certain that you go into the divorce process with an understanding of your rights. It is not uncommon to feel guilty or coerced into making property division decisions that are not ideal. Stay strong, try to work with your spouse and if that fails, go into court knowing what you want and what you are entitled to so the judge's decision does not come as a surprise.

Source: By findlaw.com "Divorce Property Division FAQ," Accessed on Aug. 23, 2016

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