Dividing a couple’s property during divorce proceedings can be difficult and confusing. Even in the most amenable situations, there are many items that need to be listed then divided: houses, rental property, stock options, retirement and pension plan, and more. If your divorce is contentious, it can be even more difficult.
Regardless, it’s important that you have a full understanding of how property division during a divorce works in the state of Mississippi, as well as have a grip on which assets are best for your long- and short-term financial security. Read on for a comprehensive explanation that will equip you with the knowledge you need to work with your attorney to ensure an equitable distribution.
Property Distribution Laws in Mississippi
In Mississippi divorces, the court usually will accept a proposal of property division if they consider it fair and reasonable and if both parties agree to the proposed division of property. However, in cases where the parties cannot agree, Mississippi is the only state in America in which the courts then award the property to the person whose name is on the title.
Marital vs. Non-marital Property
One of the first things the court will do is classify the parties’ assets as non-marital or marital. Marital property is defined as all property accumulated or acquired during the marriage and can include cars, houses, land, appliances, and other purchased and gifted items as well as checking, savings, and retirement accounts. Marital property will be equitably distributed in the divorce process. Property that was brought into the marriage or inherited by either spouse can, in certain circumstances, qualify as non-marital property, and thus not be subject to equitable distribution.
Dividing and Distributing Marital Property
Once the court has established a list of marital and non-marital property, it then divides the marital property for distribution. It’s important to understand that dividing the marital property equitably may not necessarily mean dividing it equally. When dividing marital property, the court will consider:
- The sentimental value and market value of the property
- The contribution each partner has made in accumulating marital property
- Any dissipation (destruction or squandering) of marital property that has occurred
- The value of each person’s separate property
- The financial security needs of each spouse
- If an award of the property will eliminate the need for alimony
- Any economic or tax consequences of a property division
Valuing and Dividing Property When Parties Can’t Agree on an Equitable and Fair Division
Mississippi is the only state in the United States that looks at title ownership as a basis for property division. In cases where the property is jointly owned, it is divided equitably.
Valuing and Dividing the Marital Home
The marital home is usually one of the largest assets divided in a divorce. Equity is determined by taking the current market value of the house and subtracting any liens or debts (taxes, mortgage, home equity loans, etc.) held against the home. Most couples going through a divorce will pay for a real estate appraisal, or ask a real estate agent to do a market analysis (in most cases this is a free service).
Once this value has been determined, there are three ways to divide the equity between the couple:
- The home is sold and proceeds divided between the couple
- One of the parties refinances the home and buys out the other spouse
- One person (many times the custodial parent) remains in the home for a set period of time (until the youngest child graduates from high school or another set timeframe). At that agreed upon time, the spouses either sell the home and divide the proceeds, or one person buys out the other spouse.
Determining Value of Other Property
If the two parties agree on the value of a property item the courts generally accept the value they assign the item. If the parties do not agree, experts may be hired by either the courts or the involved parties to determine the value of the marital asset. These experts can include real estate or business appraisers, accountants, or pension valuators. The cost of these experts will add to the cost of the divorce.
Retirement Accounts and Pensions
In the state of Mississippi, any vested pensions (pensions in which all requirements to receive the pension have been met) are considered marital property. Unvested pensions are also considered marital property, but until vested the person under which the pension is maintained holds what is called an “expectancy of interest” in the pension.
In Mississippi, when spouses are going to divide pension benefits a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) must be completed. This is a written set of instructions that are given to the pension plan administrator and details how the two involved parties are dividing pension benefits: what percentage of the benefits go to each person and when & how they should be paid.
Knowledgeable Counsel is Crucial When Dividing Property
The Law Office of Amanda Todd Daniels has the critical experience needed to assist you in all aspects of your divorce, including the equitable division of property. We are committed to helping you get through this time of your life and start your post-divorce life in a strong financial position. Call us today at (662) 678-8009 to discuss your needs and how we can help you successfully navigate this process.