In a divorce case, the courts have to sort out everything from the marriage so the parties can move on with their lives. Among the tasks a court must perform, a universal one is property division, specifically Mississippi property division.
A divorcing couple should not overlook the guidance of a licensed attorney who works in Family Law cases. Property division laws can be tricky, vary from state to state and judges are more likely to rule favorably for a party that has qualified legal counsel to argue his/her position.
Property Division Divorce Laws in Mississippi
The purpose of Mississippi property division laws is to make sure that marital property is allocated to each spouse equitably. Mississippi marital property is divided under the considerations of Mississippi case law but the trial court judge receives great discretion when converting Mississippi marital property into separate Mississippi divorce property.
Mississippi is an equitable distribution state. This means that with regard to Mississippi divorce assets, anything the spouses brought into a marriage usually will not be included in Mississippi divorce assets or Mississippi divorce property. The only property that comes into the court's distribution is that which is legally classified as property of the marriage subject to Mississippi case law.
What is considered Marital and Non-Marital Property
Marital property consists of all items acquired by either spouse during a marriage as well as separate items that were brought into a marriage and later converted into marital property.
Non-marital property is simply property that each spouse had before the marriage or acquired individually without including it into the marital property. This may also include property the parties agree is separate from the marital estate under a valid agreement.
Ultimately, the trial court will decide which of the parties' property is subject to the property division and qualifies as marital property.
Dividing Assets and Debt
After the court decides which property is available for distribution, the next step is property valuation. The final step is the allocation of marital property.
Under Mississippi case law, the court considers a number of factors in dividing assets and debt. Some of these are:
- The value of each party's non-marital assets
- The parties' needs
- The parties' overall contributions to the marriage
- The market & emotional value of assets to the parties
- Tax consequences
Using these factors, judges decide how a marriage's assets should be divided. Here is a list of the most common property items and the most common allocation scheme used.
- Cash: Divided equitably among the
- Example 1: A joint savings account has $9,000. The court would most likely award a portion of the money to each spouse.
- Example 2: A joint savings account has $9,000. One spouse contributed $6,000 and the other contributed $3,000. The amount may be divided in a 50-50 split or may be more balanced if the $3,000 contributor has fewer assets than the $6,000 contributor.
- Retirement Plans: Divided based on the
duration of the marriage at the time the benefits accrued, looking at the
present value of the plan and/or survivor benefits.
- Example 1: A spouse got benefits in a retirement plan after working for 25 years and was married for 20 of those years. The ex-spouse would be entitled to a portion of the retirement plan that was acquired during the marriage.
- Example 2: A spouse has an unvested retirement plan. No division takes place until the plan is payable to the spouse who has it. This plan may or may not be classified as marital property, depending on the court's discretion.
- Vehicles: Divided based on the values at
the date determined by the court. May be
sold or given to a spouse outright.
- Example 1: A boat is owned by a spouse. The boat may be sold with the proceeds given to a poorer spouse or the boat may be given to a spouse outright.
- Example 2: A car has a shared title. The car may be sold with the proceeds divided among the spouses or the car may be given to a poorer spouse.
- Insurance: Determined based upon each
spouse's health, availability of alternate insurance and premium payments from
- Example 1: One spouse has covered the other under employer provided health insurance. The other spouse is in poor health and could not afford alternate health care coverage. The court may order the first spouse to continue covering that spouse for a set time period or award a cash payment to the ailing spouse in order to afford new coverage.
- b) Example 2: One spouse has a life insurance policy where the ex-spouse is to get survivor benefits. If marital income was used to make payments on the insurance, the spouse may be entitled to a portion of the benefits.
Settling Disputes in a Divorce Case with Property and Asset Division
If a spouse is not complying with the property division order or you want to change the division, you may go back to court to seek enforcement or modification just as with any other judgment. The court will then decide how to proceed.
However, the trial court's determinations will not be changed by a higher court unless there is clear evidence of an abuse of discretion.
Help From a Mississippi Property Divorce Lawyer
Retaining a Mississippi property divorce lawyer is key to getting the fairest result in the property division phase of a divorce. The lawyer can provide professional guidance, keep you informed of likely outcomes and help you present the best arguments and presentation to the trial judge handling the divorce.