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Mississippi Property Division
Property Distribution Laws in Mississippi

In Mississippi the courts generally accept a fair and reasonable property division the parties agree to, but if the parties cannot agree, the property is divided by the Mississippi Court within the Judgment of Divorce.

Factors in Equitable Distribution

Mississippi is the only title state in America. When the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the Chancery Court awards property to the person who has title. Mississippi is also a dual classification state, and the appreciation of separate property is separate.

Upon dissolution of a marriage, the court has the authority to divide real and personal property and to award periodic, lump sum, and/or rehabilitative alimony. When dividing property, the Mississippi court:

  • classifies the parties' assets as marital or non-marital, and
  • values and equitably divides the marital property in light of each parties non-marital property.

In Mississippi, marital property is any and all property acquired or accumulated during the marriage. This includes cars, land, houses, and appliances purchased during the marriage and checking, savings, or retirement accounts accumulated during the marriage. Property classified as a marital property is subject to equitable distribution. Property brought into the marriage by one of the parties or inherited by one of the parties may qualify as non-marital property under certain circumstances and may not be subject to equitable distribution.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

After the court classifies assets as marital or non-marital, it then may divide and distribute the marital property. An equitable division may not necessarily be an equal division. In doing this, the court considers:

  • the contribution of each partner to accumulation of marital property;
  • 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 spouses 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; and
  • each spouses overall need for financial security.

Property Defined

Property is either marital or separate, and it includes assets and liabilities. In Mississippi, title determines ownership.

Valuing and Dividing Property

Courts separate by ownership and divide accordingly. Mississippi is the only state that bases property division in divorce on who holds legal title. If the property is jointly held, it gets equitably divided.

The Marital Home

In Mississippi as in many jurisdictions, the equity in the marital home is often one of the biggest assets the spouses divide. The equity is the market value of the house, less any debts or liens against it. Equity is established by determining what the current market value of the home is at the time of separation. Once the spouses agree to a current market value, any debts associated with the property (mortgage, taxes, home equity loans, etc.) are deducted from the market value to arrive at the equity to be divided. Normally, making this calculation requires a paid real estate appraisal or a real estate agent can prepare a market analysis for free.

From there, couples choose one of three options to divide the equity:

  • The spouses sell the home and divide the proceeds.
  • One of the parties may refinance the home and buy out the other party.
  • One spouse (usually the custodial parent) remains in the home with the exclusive use and possession for a certain period of time (for example, until the youngest child graduates from high school), then either buys out the other spouse or sells the home and divides the proceeds.

Pensions and Retirement Accounts

In Mississippi vested pensions are marital property. A pension vests when all the requirements to receive the pension have been met. Unvested pensions are also marital property. Until the pension has vested, the person under whom the pension is maintained has only an expectancy of interest in the pension.

Several different methods of valuation are used in determining how much a marital asset is worth, depending upon the asset to be valued and the level of agreement between the parties. Courts generally accept the value when the spouses mutually agree on a value of a particular asset. Experts may be retained by the parties or by the courts to determine the value of marital assets if the parties cannot agree. Such experts may include accountants, real estate or business appraisers, or pension valuators. The use of experts adds to the cost of the divorce.

In Mississippi if spouses share in each others retirement or pension plan, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order must be completed. A QDRO is a written set of instructions that explains to a plan administrator that two parties are dividing pension benefits. The instructions set forth the terms and conditions of the distribution - how much of the benefits are to be paid to each party, when such benefits can be paid, and how such benefits should be paid.

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