Mississippi is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing property between spouses upon divorce. Equitable distribution simply means that the court attempts to divide all marital property in a fair and equitable manner, but the court does not have to divide it equally between the parties. Marital property is all property acquired through either spouse’s labor or during the marriage. Separate property is not considered in the division process, and goes to the spouse that holds title to that property. However, Mississippi law has recently evolved to allow a judge to find that assets own prior to the marriage were marital or converted to martial property, and that passive appreciate of martial securities can also be treated as martial property. Therefore, assets acquired before marriage, gifts or inheritances, may be treated as marital property in property division.
Mississippi courts consider many factors when determining who should get what property. These factors are called the Ferguson factors, which are:
1. Substantial contribution to property accumulation, including direct or indirect economic contribution, contribution to marital and family stability, and contribution to the education or training of the wage-earning spouse
2. Spousal use or disposition of assets and distribution by agreement
3. The market and emotional value of assets
4. The value of each spouse’s separate estate
5. Tax consequences and legal consequences to third parties
6. The extent to which property division can eliminate the need for alimony
7. The needs of each spouse
8. And other factors which should be considered in equity
Courts follow these steps in making decisions concerning property:
1. The court must classify all of the assets as marital or separate property.
2. Then it must value the assets, using expert testimony if necessary.
3. It divides marital property equitably, based on the Ferguson factors,
4. It awards alimony where needed.
Property division is only one issue of divorce. If the parties cannot agree as to the division of property it will be necessary for the issue to be addressed by the court. An experienced lawyer can assist in gathering the evidence needed to be presented to the court for the most favorable outcome.
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