Property Division in a Mississippi Divorce
While some couples are able to agree on how to divide everything on their own when divorcing, others will often seek the help of a mediator, lawyers, or a court judge in order to negotiate a final settlement concerning the division of their property. Laws governing the division of marital property in divorce vary from state to state.
The Difference Between Equitable Distribution and Community Property
Mississippi is an Equitable Distribution state, not a Community Property state. Since 1994, in divorce cases, Mississippi Chancery courts have applied the doctrine of equitable distribution. That means that they have discretion from requiring a 50/50 split in every circumstance. Note: equitable does not mean equal – the concentration is on what’s fair to each spouse.
Determining Marital and Non-Marital Property
The first task of the court is to determine which property is marital, and which property is separate, because only marital property is subject to equitable distribution under Mississippi law. Marital property is any property or assets that were acquired or accumulated during the course of the marriage. This may include cars, land, houses, and appliances purchased during the marriage and checking, savings, or retirement accounts accumulated during the marriage. Separate, or non-marital property, are those assets attributable to one of the spouses either prior to, or outside, the marriage.
Distribution of Marital Property in Mississippi
The court must then determine how to distribute all marital assets in an equitable fashion. The court will apply the Ferguson Factors, based on a Supreme Court of Mississippi decision in the 1994 divorce case of Billy Ferguson Sr. v. Linda Ferguson:
“This Court directs the chancery courts to evaluate the division of marital assets by the following guidelines and to support their decisions with findings of fact and conclusions of law for purposes of appellate review. Although this listing is not exclusive, this Court suggests the chancery courts consider the following guidelines, where applicable, when attempting to effect an equitable division of marital property:
- The contribution of each partner to the accumulation of marital property, including indirect economic contribution, contribution to family stability, and contribution to the education and training of the wage earning spouse;
- His or her dissipation of marital property, if any;
- Both the market value and the sentimental value of the property to be divided;
- The value of each spouse’s separate property;
- Any tax or other economic consequences of the property division;
- The extent to which an award of property may eliminate the need for alimony;
- Each spouse’s overall need for financial security;
- Any other equity factors the Chancellor deems necessary to consider.
Types of Property Considered in a Divorce
Divided equitably between the spouses.
Divided based on the duration of the marriage at the time the benefits accrued.
Both vested and unvested pensions are marital property.
Divided based on the values at the date determined by the court.
Under Mississippi law, the spouse who works and the spouse who takes care of the home are usually considered to have equally contributed to the accumulation of property. This means no one spouse is necessarily given more weight in the factor that considers the contribution to the accumulation of marital property.
Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Divorce Attorney
Dividing property after a divorce is a complicated process. Here at the law offices of Maley & Nicholas, we have the experience to help you realize an equitable settlement. Call us to schedule a consultation with an attorney.