When King Solomon suggested splitting a baby in two to discover who the true mother was, he was in a far better position than the Mississippi Chancery Court; after all, in Solomon’s case there was only one true mother. But when a couple divorces, both people have equal claim to the things they made, collected or purchased while they were together (unless otherwise specified). So how does the court decide who keeps the house, or who gets the car – or who takes ownership of the family pet?
Until 1994, Mississippi was a “title state,” meaning that the spouse whose name was on the title kept the object or property. Now, the courts divide assets (your money, your pension, your home) and debts (your medical expenses, your loans, your credit card bills) equitably between both spouses. Equitable division is not equal division, however; what is fair is not always what is 50/50.
Marital vs. separate vs. comingled property
Not all property is considered equal under the law, either. Marital property is anything you and your spouse purchased or acquired together: your home, the family car, Fido or even stocks might all be considered marital property. Separate property is anything you or your spouse brought into your marriage (a rental property, a trust fund, a collection of antique spoons) that you two have kept separate from your combined property.
Marital property will be equitably divided. Separate property, provided it has never been comingled, is usually kept out of the equation. An example of comingling is when one spouse deposits his or her entire trust fund into a joint account, allowing both spouses to draw from that money. In these cases, a judge might divided all of that trust fund money between you and your spouse.
Keeping what is yours
If there are certain investments, objects, properties or other assets that you wish to retain for yourself, the best possible thing you can do is sit down with your soon-to-be-ex, both divorce lawyers and a mediator, and draw up a plan that the two of you can agree on. Mississippi judges appreciate a divorcing couple’s efforts to be respectful and cooperative when it comes to dividing property, and will usually give you and your ex the division you requested, stepping in only to handle that which cannot be agreed upon by both parties. If you and your spouse are embroiled in a particularly contentious divorce, however, then the Chancery court judge will divide the property for you. Unless you have a pre- or post-nuptial in place, or have very clearly delineated separate properties, you run the risk of losing what matters most to you.
Property division can be complicated; working with a dedicated and experienced Mississippi divorce lawyer can help. We invite you to contact Taylor Jones Taylor to learn more about our family law services.