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Marital Property Division: Disclosure, Omission, Fraud, Mistake

Whether intentionally as part of a scheme to conceal and defraud, or an honest oversight, omissions occur in property disclosure statements and divorce decrees. In Missouri, the division of marital property — essentially all property and debt accrued/accumulated during the course of a marriage — is final and is not subject to division. Section 452.360.2, RSMo; Meissner v. Schnettgoecke, 211 S.W.3d 157, 160 (Mo. Ct. App. 2007).

There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Rule 74.06 allows the court to set aside aside the judgment based on a finding of mistake, inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect, excusable neglect, intrinsic or extrinsic fraud, misrepresentation, misconduct of an adverse party, or an irregularity in the judgment. After this one (1) year period, a judgment is only subject to attack by an independent equitable action upon a demonstration of extrinsic fraud. Reimer v. Hayes, 365 S.W.3d 280, 283 (Mo. Ct. App. 2012). Importantly,  while a party can seek the distribution of a marital asset/debt that was omitted from the dissolution judgment, the party “cannot seek the redistribution of property covered by the decree.” In re Marriage of Quintard, 691 S.W.2d 950, 953-54 (Mo. Ct. App. 1985).

In most Missouri counties, dissolution of marriage and modification filings must be accompanied by extensive income, expense and property disclosure statements completed under oath. Some counties also require that salient financial documentation, including, without limitation, bank statements, credit card statements and other asset/account summaries, be divulged within a certain period of time. The obvious preference with family law cases is to promote and encourage mandatory disclosures. Nevertheless, given the difficulty with changing property divisions post-judgment, it is important to at least entertain sending discovery requests if the the nature and extent of property is in question.

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