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Is a Home Purchased By One Person Before Marriage Considered Marital Property?


You’re headed for divorce and have real concerns about property division. You’re not sure what constitutes marital property—that which is to be equitably divided—and personal property—that which belongs solely to one individual. In particular, you’re concerned about the house, which was purchased prior to the marriage, has only one person’s name on the deed, and has been lived in for years by the two of you.

Missouri Law 

Missouri law requires the equitable distribution of marital assets in any divorce, and considers a number of issues in determining how much each partner should get in a split.  Among other matters, things like each spouse’s financial circumstance, contributions made to the marriage, and even the conduct of each individual can impact these negotiations.  But the question here is whether a home purchased prior to wedding bells is even up for discussion in settlement talks.  After all, a buyer who made a purchase before marrying and who never even put their spouse’s name on the deed must surely have personal ownership of that property, right? Well, yes and no.

While the home itself may not be considered as marital property, increases in the value of the property may be another matter altogether. When marital assets have contributed to the increased value of the home, the increase in value may be eligible to be divided in divorce. Clearly, if both spouses have contributed to the house payment with their respective salaries, they both have a claim to the increased value of the home. Likewise, if both contributed to remodeling or other improvements to the property, they each can assert that their labor was directly tied to the increase in home value.  But what if one spouse stayed home, raised children, and worked as a homemaker, which allowed the other to earn a living and make house payments? A judge may determine that both parties can make a claim to the increased valuation of the home. The process for making a determination looks like this:

1-    Assessing the fair market value of the marital home at the time of the divorce;

2-    Determining whether there has been passive appreciation between the time of the marriage and the time of the divorce, and if so, how much appreciation has occurred;

3-    Determining if this passive appreciation should be considered a marital asset under Missouri law;

4-    Determining how the value of the passive appreciation should be divided.

Circumstances Impact Outcome 

There are several possible scenarios that could impact how passive appreciation is allocated:

1-    For a home completely financed during the marriage, the value of the entire home is part of the equitable distribution assessment.

2-    If payments were made prior to the marriage, the value of those payments would be deducted from the value of the home at the time of the divorce, and the rest would be equitably divided.

Fighting for Best Outcomes for You 

At Courtney & Mills our Springfield family attorneys provide you with the facts you need to proceed through divorce and obtain the best possible results.  To discuss your circumstances, schedule a confidential consultation in our Springfield office today.


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