Archive for October, 2013

Are You Entitled to an Annulment in Mississippi?

Friday, October 18th, 2013

What do Renee Zellweger, Brittney Spears, and Zsa Zsa Gabor all have in common?  Each obtained an annulment, declaring their marriage never to have legally existed.  While divorce and death are the two ways one commonly envisions dissolving a marriage, annulment is a third possibility.  An annulment differs from a divorce in that instead of terminating a marriage, it causes the marriage to have never existed.  The slate is wiped clean, in essence, with the remedy of annulment.  An annulment is, however, difficult to obtain and you must meet very stringent requirements in order to be entitled to one.  Here is a look at three famous celebrity annulments and the grounds cited in support of them:

Rene Zellweger wed country star Kenny Chesney in 2005 after a whirlwind romance.  Four months after the wedding, Zellweger applied for an annulment citing fraud as the reason she sought one.  The annulment was granted, and rumors swirled over the source of the alleged fraud.  Later, the former couple explained that the term fraud was only used for legal purposes; the marriage ended due to miscommunication of the objective of the marriage.

Britney Spears married her childhood sweetheart Jason Allen Alexander on January 4, 2004.  The very next day, however, Britney filed for an annulment.  She claimed she lacked an understanding of her actions and was incapable of agreeing to marriage because the couple did not know the basics about each other that one should upon entering a marriage, such as each spouse’s likes and dislikes, desire to have children, and preference for state of residency.  The annulment was granted within hours.

Finally, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Felipe de Alba married briefly in 1983, but the marriage was annulled on the grounds that Zsa Zsa’s divorce from Michael O’Hara was not yet final.  Felipe was Zsa Zsa’s eighth husband.

Grounds for Annulment in Mississippi

A spouse may seek to annul an invalid marriage based on the following limited grounds:

– Bigamy—bigamy occurs when one spouse is already married to another.  The marriage will be declared void but children from the marriage will be considered legitimate.

-Incest—a marriage is void if it is between: a parent and child, including adopted children or step children; grandparent and grandchild, again including step relations; siblings, including step siblings; first cousins; aunt and nephew or uncle and niece.  Children born of an incestuous marriage will be considered illegitimate.

– Impotence—impotency which cannot be cured will be grounds for annulment if an annulment is sought within six months of discovering the impotency.

– Age—the marriage between underage teenagers can be annulled.  Females between 12 and 15 and males between 14 and 17 must obtain their parents consent to wed.  Further, parental notice is required if the wife is between 15 and 21 and the husband between 17 and 21.  If, however, the young couple cohabitates following marriage, the marriage is then valid and cannot be annulled.

– Incompetence—if one of the spouses was mentally ill or mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage, the marriage can be annulled, but only within 6 months of the wedding.

– Force or fraud—a claim of annulment based on force or fraud must be brought within 6 months of the alleged force or fraud.  Fraud can encompass the scenario in which the couple marries and the husband later discovers his wife is pregnant by another man.

– No cohabitation– a marriage can be annulled when the husband and wife do not live together after getting married.

You Need an Experienced Mississippi Annulment Attorney

If you might meet one of the criteria set forth above, you should consult with an experienced Mississippi annulment attorney.  Annulment is a complex legal process that is not routinely granted.  Further, an annulment can still involve issues like division of marital assets and monetary support, which is essentially equivalent to alimony.  Matthew S. Poole is an experienced Jackson, Mississippi area annulment attorney who can examine the facts of your case and determine whether you might be able to seek an annulment.  Call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

New York Judge Rules that Evidence of Abortion Should Be Allowed in Child Custody Case

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

A child custody case coming out of Manhattan is making headlines news because of the judge’s seemingly alarming holding—New York Supreme Court Justice Lori S. Sattler has ruled that divorcee Lisa Mehos, who is in the middle of a custody battle with her former spouse Manuel John Mehos, must provide testimony concerning an abortion she had after their divorce.  Lisa Mehos and Manuel John Mehos were married for six years and divorced back in October of 2011.  Manuel John Mehos heads a bank in Texas and has made headline news before when he was arrested for allegedly hitting his ex-wife in front of their children.  The charges were later dropped.  The Mehos are now embroiled in a custody case.

A week before Judge Sattler’s ruling, Manuel Meho’s attorney, Eleanor Alter, raised the topic of Lisa Mehos’ abortion after discovering it pursuant to a subpoena for Ms. Mehos medical records.  Alter noted that the abortion took place over Easter weekend in 2012, during which time Ms. Mehos had requested custody of the couple’s two young children.  Alter urged the judge that she should be able to question Lisa Mehos concerning the abortion, as it calls into question her presented motives for requesting custody back in 2012 and is relevant to Ms. Mehos’ complaints of being under constant stress due to Mr. Mehos.  Alter urges that the abortion should be looked at as a possible source of stress, rather than Manuel Mehos.  Lastly, Alter stated she should be able to question Lisa Mehos concerning the abortion in order to determine whether the children were exposed to the man who impregnated her.

Judge Sattler agreed with Manuel Mehos’ attorney.  She ruled that Lisa Mehos must provide testimony concerning her abortion because it is relevant to her credibility.  Sattler seemed particularly troubled by the fact that Lisa Mehos had previously testified she did not have men over to her New York apartment, which she felt the abortion called into question.  Forced to open up about the abortion, Lisa Mehos testified that she became pregnant after a one time sexual encounter with a friend at his place.  Her mother cared for the children while she had the abortion.  Lisa Mehos told reporters she felt violated having been made to talk about the abortion.

Sattler’s ruling has sparked outrage among women’s rights activists and many citizens.  Was Judge Sattler’s ruling correct?  Take a look at the following facts:

  1. A parent’s behavior and willingness to foster their child’s relationship with the other parent are relevant factors for a determination of custody.  Manuel Mehos’ attorney Eleanor Alter claims the abortion is relevant because:
    1. It shows Manuel Mehos did not cause Lisa Mehos’ household stress—the abortion did
    2. It indicates Lisa Mehos’ acted hypocritical in keeping the kids for Easter weekend for the apparent reason that Mr. Mehos is an atheist
    3. It allegedly showed Lisa Mehos might have lied about having men over to the apartment
  2. While these are the purported reasons for admission of the evidence—it seems in reality the evidence is designed to paint Lisa Mehos as a bad parent for her actions in becoming pregnant and choosing to have an abortion
    1. Alter’s purported reasons for requesting the testimony as described above all seem fairly far-fetched and trivial to require a woman to testify to a very private medical procedure
    2. The judge could have considered some alternative to requiring Lisa Mehos to testify in open court as to her abortion, such as an in-camera review of her intended testimony.
    3. It seems the relevancy of the testimony is outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice.

If you are involved in a child custody dispute or fear you may become involved in one, call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole.  Matthew S. Poole is a passionate and experienced Mississippi child custody attorney who will fight tirelessly for you to achieve the child custody arrangement you desire.  Call him today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

Working Out Your Divorce Outside of Court

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

You have made the difficult decision to divorce your spouse.  When the emotions behind your decision subside, your first concern is likely, what will a divorce cost me?  In fact, polling of spouses headed towards divorce reveals that cost is the number one concern.  Divorcing spouses are already about to experience the dismantling of their financial lives.  The potential cost of a divorce can be frightening in the face of all the financial changes to come.

For some, fear of a costly divorce leads them to forego hiring a divorce attorney.  These do-it-yourselfers feel that a divorce attorney is an unnecessary expense they can cut out.  This can, however, be a costly mistake because a divorce attorney can assist you in achieving one crucial, cost-saving thing— working out your divorce outside of the courtroom.

Going to court is costly.  You will have to pay for your attorney’s time, preparation, and sometimes even the costs of an expert.  Going to court is also time-consuming and intimidating.  Perhaps most importantly, going to court leaves decisions on the things that matter most to you in the hands of the judge—who may not make decisions you agree with.  You do not want to leave decisions like the custody of your children, the division of your assets, and the amount of alimony you will receive up to a stranger.

For these reasons, most people headed towards divorce want to avoid the courtroom at all costs.  A skilled defense attorney can help you to effectuate your divorce outside of the classroom, saving you time, money, and achieving the results you desire.  Here are some tips to avoiding the courtroom in Mississippi:

  1. Retain a skilled Mississippi divorce attorney early on—it is important that you begin to work towards a favorable settlement agreement as soon as possible.  An experienced divorce attorney adept at negotiations will be your best tool towards reaching an agreement.  Spouses who attempt to do it themselves may be caught early on heading to preliminary hearings in court which can result in the judge making decisions you do not agree with.  Instead of taking your chances in court, consult with a divorce attorney experienced in negotiations and ensure you receive the outcome you desire.
  2. Take the emotions out of it–some of the best advice a divorce attorney can give is to view your divorce as a business deal.  Set the emotions aside.  Emotions have their time and place, but they should not become a part of settlement negotiations.  Sadly, many divorcing spouses end up logging countless courtroom hours because their anger towards the other spouse leads them to seek litigation.  These courtroom battles will often involve the drudging up of spousal faults, such as infidelities and can be painful for all parties involved, particularly children.  If you are able to separate your emotions from the business aspect of the divorce, you will be able to rationally negotiate with your soon to be ex.
  3. Hire an attorney who will act as a problem solver—it is crucial to retain the assistance of a divorce attorney early on to begin the process of reaching a settlement agreement.  It is important, however, not to select just any attorney.  You need to retain an attorney who will be a problem solver—not a problem creator.  Some attorneys look to create conflict situations that will land them in the courtroom.  These types of attorneys will not help you in your quest to avoid the courtroom.  Instead, select an attorney who supports your goals.  Make sure your attorney has extensive negotiation experience and is open to a meeting of all parties to resolve the issues.

Matthew S. Poole is an experienced Mississippi divorce attorney with exceptional skill in negotiation.  As a compassionate divorce attorney, Matthew wants to see you obtain your divorce as quickly and painlessly as possible.  To this end, Matthew will work with you to successfully avoid the courtroom and settle your divorce outside of court.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

Termination of Parental Assistance Due To a Child’s Poor Behavior in Mississippi

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Under Mississippi law, a child can forfeit both child support and college assistance through his or her poor behavior.  A case recently decided by the Mississippi Court of Appeals provides a thorough examination of the issue.  In the case of Stasny v. Wages, No. 2012-CA-00567-COA, decided June 25, 2013, Lori Stasny and John Wages divorced in 2004.  The couple had two children during the marriage, Sarah and Tyler.  Stasny and Wages agreed to a joint custody agreement wherein neither would pay child support and both would equally contribute to the children’s vehicle expenses and college trust funds.  Four years later, Stasny and Wages ended up back in court requesting a modification of the custody arrangement.  They decided that Lori Stasny, the mother, would have custody of Sarah and Tyler would be in the custody of his father, John Wages.

A year later, Stasny petitioned to have Wages’ parental rights terminated, and both children joined in the petition.  A guardian ad litem was appointed and informed the court that Sarah, then 16, desired to have Wages parental rights terminated so that she could be adopted by her stepfather.  However, the court could not find grounds for termination.  Stasny tried to negotiate with Wages by offering to terminate his financial obligations towards the children if he terminated his rights, but he refused.  The case sat on the docket unresolved.

In 2010, Stasny sought to be awarded child support and to modify the settlement agreement.  By this time, Tyler had reached the age of emancipation, so the only concern was Wages’ financial obligations towards 18-year-old Sarah.  A hearing was held, encompassing the request for child support and the still pending petition to terminate Wages’ parental rights.  At the hearing, Sarah testified that she had not seen her father in over two years, despite the fact that she was scheduled to see him every other weekend.  She said she had other priorities which took precedence over her relationship with her father.

Based on the evidence, the chancellor concluded that Sarah’s actions towards her father were clear and extreme enough to warrant forfeiture of her father’s financial obligations towards her and reversal of his agreement to pay for college expenses.  The court of appeals upheld this determination.

The court of appeals summarized the law in Mississippi concerning termination of child support or college education responsibility as follows:

  1. Termination of child support—in order for a child to reject the parent-child relationship to the extent that child support is forfeited, the child’s actions must have been both clear and extreme.  Courts will generally look at whether the child has abandoned the parent-child relationship, such as refusing to visit with or communicate with the parent for an extended period of time.
  2. Termination of support of college-aged children—if the child is college-aged, as was Sarah, the court need not find the child’s actions clear and extreme.  Instead, a parent’s duty to support a college-aged child is dependent not only on the child’s aptitude for college, but on the child’s behavior toward and relationship with the parent.  The court will look at whether the parent-child relationship makes the child deserving of the additional financial burden placed on the parent.  Mississippi courts applying this standard have found no obligation to support a college-aged child where the child refused to visit the parent and spoke disparagingly towards the parent.

If you are a parent seeking to terminate your parental obligations towards a child who refuses to have a relationship with you, it is imperative you consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney.  An action to terminate your financial obligations is complex and will require the assistance of  a skilled child support attorney.  Similarly, if you are a child who stands to lose the financial assistance of a parent due to your alleged poor behavior, you should act quickly to secure the representation of an experienced child support attorney.  You need to begin mounting your defense to such allegations.

The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole has extensive experience in a wide array of family law matters, including termination of parental obligations due to a child’s poor behavior.  We can assist you in your action, whether it involves an action to terminate financial obligations or defense of a motion to terminate.  Call us today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

The 411 on Child Support in Mississippi

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Child support is a crucial issue for divorcing spouses, as well as those who are not married but have a child or children under the age of 21.  For the parent receiving child support, child support can make a world of difference to the economic well-being of the family.  For the parent paying child support, too large a child support award can have a crippling effect for years to come.

A Mississippi court can award child support as part of a divorce or in a separate action.  The Mississippi child support guidelines are set out in Mississippi Code Section 43-19-101.  The guidelines determine the amount of support to be awarded from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent based on the number of children involved and the payor parent’s adjusted gross income.  The Mississippi child support guidelines are presumptively correct for people with an income between $5,000 and $50,000.  Under the guidelines, the noncustodial parent should pay the following:

  • 1 child, 14%
  • 2 children, 20%
  • 3 children, 22%
  • 4 children, 24%
  • 5 or more children, 26%

The court, however, may award an upward or downward departure from the guidelines based on the following factors set out in Mississippi Code Section 43-19-103:

  1. Extraordinary medical, educational, dental, or psychological expenses
  2. Independent income of the child
  3. Payment of both child support and spousal support to the custodial parent
  4. Seasonal variations in either parents income or expenses
  5. Age of the child, particularly factoring in the greater needs of older children
  6. Special needs that had traditionally been met within the family budget, even if the needs exceed the support proposed by the guidelines
  7. Your specific custody arrangement; i.e. does the noncustodial parent spend considerable time with the children, alleviating the financial obligations of the custodial spouse; or, on the other hand, does the noncustodial parent refrain from doing activities with the child, leaving more of a burden on the custodial parent
  8. Total available assets of all parties
  9. Any other adjustment necessary to achieve an equitable result

Before determining the amount of child support to be awarded per the guidelines and the extraordinary considerations, the noncustodial parent’s gross income must first be calculated.  Gross income will include income from overtime and second jobs, but may not include onetime bonuses and other inconsistent forms of income.  After adjusting the noncustodial parent’s gross income for taxes and other child support obligations, the guidelines are then applied.  The court may also award, in addition to the basic child support award, payment for health insurance, college expenses, and other such expenses the court deems necessary.

The child support guidelines will not apply in every scenario.  For instance, in certain joint custody arrangements, the guidelines should not apply as they contemplate a scenario in which there exists a clear custodial and noncustodial parent.  Child support obligations will continue until a child reaches the age of 21, unless the child is emancipated before then. Given the long-term nature of the obligation, it is important that you ensure you are either receiving the correct amount of child support or paying the proper sum.

The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole has extensive experience in the field of child support.  We know the ins and outs of the child support guidelines and will fight for you to achieve that award your children so deserve, or lessen the burden of an unjust award.  You need a skilled Mississippi family law attorney to examine the facts of your case and determine whether the child support guidelines should apply to you, or whether a departure is warranted.  Call Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

The Top 5 Things to Consider in Choosing a Divorce Attorney in Mississippi

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Hiring a divorce attorney is a critical step in your divorce.  The right divorce attorney can mean the difference between a quick, painless divorce and a long, drawn-out, contested one.  Your choice of Mississippi divorce attorney can also heavily influence the outcome of your divorce on the issues that matter most to you, such as alimony, child custody, and asset allocation.  While most people determine early on they need an attorney to help them through the divorce process, many do not know where to turn to find the right attorney, or what to look for in selecting a divorce attorney.  To this end, we have prepared the following list of the top 5 things you should consider in hiring a Mississippi divorce attorney:

  1. Experience is crucial—when you begin researching potential divorce attorneys in your area, look first and foremost at the attorney’s experience in the realm of divorce and knowledge of the local court system.  Experience does not equate to years of practice; rather, experience comes from handling a wide variety of divorce cases in your locale.  Experience will provide your divorce attorney with the necessary know how to competently handle your divorce case, no matter how complicated.  Also examine the attorney’s field of practice.  Does he or she focus primarily on family law, or just practice family law on the side?  While there are always exceptions to the rule, it is generally best to select an attorney who makes family law at least a large part of his or her practice.  This again will speak to the attorney’s thorough knowledge of divorce law and all the issues that accompany it.
  2. Communication skills are a must—when you sit down to interview your potential new attorney, pay close attention to their communication skills.  You should select an attorney that will listen to your concerns and properly address all your questions.  Divorce is a complex matter that involves a lot of emotions.  Your divorce attorney will be your guide throughout the process and must be available and willing to answer the many questions you are expected to have.  Further, an attorney’s communication skills are not only critical when dealing with the client.  Your divorce attorney will be communicating on your behalf to the court, other attorneys, and your divorcing spouse.  Their communication skills or lack thereof can therefore greatly impact your case.
  3.  Select a compassionate attorney—while this might seem minor compared to the two factors listed above, compassion is an important factor to find in a divorce attorney.  You are going through likely one of the most difficult times of your life.  You deserve to have by your side a truly compassionate divorce attorney.
  4. Avoid guaranteed outcomes—avoid attorneys who provide you with a guaranteed outcome.  There is simply no such thing in life or in the courtroom.  Promising such to a client is not professional and indicates a lack of experience in the field.
  5. Hire a divorce attorney that you ultimately feel comfortable with-— while examining an attorney’s website, list of successful cases, education, and brilliant awards may tell you a lot about them, ultimately you should select someone you feel comfortable with.  Your divorce attorney is someone you will likely have to discuss highly personal matters with; someone you may spend a considerable amount of time with; someone who will act as your sounding board, legal interpreter, and mouthpiece.  Comfort is essential and should not be overlooked as a factor in selecting your divorce attorney.

Matthew S. Poole is an experienced divorce lawyer in Mississippi who has handled a wide array of divorce cases.  The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole devotes extensive time and energy to the field of family law and has an in-depth knowledge of the practice.  Matthew is a compassionate divorce attorney who understands the difficult process of divorce and will be there to guide you every step of the way.  Call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule your consultation.

Will Mississippi Recognize Same-Sex Divorces?

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Mississippi is one of 28 states that have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  Under Mississippi Amendment 1 of the Mississippi Constitution, marriage may take place and be valid under the laws of Mississippi only between a man and a woman.  A marriage in another state or jurisdiction between persons of the same gender will not be recognized in Mississippi and is considered void.  While this Amendment appears definitive, in the country’s post-DOMA landscape, the rights of same-sex couples across jurisdictions are less clear than they used to be.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham is testing Mississippi’s post-DOMA laws. Czekala-Chatham married Dana Ann Melancon in California, but did not reside in that state.  Instead, Czekala-Chatham and Melancon have lived together in Southhaven, Mississippi until their separation in 2010.  Czekala-Chatham is now seeking to divorce her wife—and she has filed for divorce in the DeSoto County Chancery Court.  Czekala-Chatham contemplated filing for divorce in California, which does not require same-sex couples meet the traditional residency requirements.  However, California may not be able to rule on matters such as property ownership, debt, and child custody.  Accordingly, Czekala-Chatham and her attorney J. Wesley Hisaw, felt it necessary to seek a divorce in Mississippi.

Czekala-Chatham’s attorney has stated that his client is not looking to make gay marriage in Mississippi legal; rather, she is simply asking the courts to recognize her marriage so that she can obtain a divorce in this state.  Czekala-Chatham said in a telephone interview that she is seeking a divorce from Melancon at this time because she has children from a previous relationship which she needs to protect.  She fears that in the event of her death, Melancon could potentially receive part of her inheritance that she intends for her children.  Czekala-Chatham is seeking ownership of the couple’s Mississippi home and alimony.  Her divorce petition alleges infidelity and cruel and inhumane treatment on behalf of her spouse.

Czekala-Chatham’s case is not entirely unique.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that abolished portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, similar cases have been filed in other U.S. states.  The Texas Supreme Court recently announced it will consider whether the state has jurisdiction over same-sex divorces.  Oral arguments are schedule for November 5.  Texas, which like Mississippi does not recognize same-sex marriage, has had at least two same-sex couples file for divorce in the state since June.

Czekala-Chatham’s case is an interesting test case that will likely face an uphill battle.  Massachusetts Constitutional Amendment 1 makes it clear the state does not recognize same-sex marriages.  It stands to reason that same-sex divorces would similarly not be recognized.  However, as Czekala-Chatham reasoned, a lack of jurisdiction to file for divorce in Mississippi may leave her without an adequate remedy anyplace.  California may well not be able to rule on issues central to her divorce, such as ownership of her Mississippi home, alimony, and child custody.  Mississippi, like numerous other states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, will have some serious considerations to make over the next few years as an increasing number of cases will likely continue to be filed concerning post-DOMA issues.

If you are considering divorcing your same-sex spouse in the state of Mississippi, call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole.  Matthew S. Poole is a preeminent divorce law attorney in Mississippi that is not afraid to take on a challenging case.  Matthew S. Poole will fight tirelessly for your same-sex marriage divorce to gain recognition in Mississippi.  With his creative thinking skills and vast knowledge of Constitutional Law, Matthew S. Poole can help you achieve the legal results you desire.  Call him today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

Community Property Versus Equitable Distribution in Mississippi

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

There are many factors that will affect the outcome of your divorce, from the length of your marriage, each of your incomes, and the involvement of children.  One crucial factor, however, will play a large role in the outcome of the distribution of your marital assets.  That factor is where you divorceEach state has its own unique set of rules governing the division of assets during a divorce.  A court in Texas, for instance, will apply drastically different rules in allocating assets than a court in New York.  There are two main categories of rules for the distribution of assets used in states across the country: equitable distribution and community assets.  Here is a look at the two systems

Community Property in a Mississippi Divorce

Community property is the less common division of assets regime.  It is used in the following 9 states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.  In addition, couples in Alaska can opt in to a community property system.  The community property system derives from Spanish law, which accounts for its predominate presence in the southwestern states.

In a community property state, both spouses are considered equal owners of all marital property.  As a general rule, whatever each spouse earns or acquires during the marriage is co-owned by both parties, regardless of who earned it or whose name is on the title.  During a divorce, all assets are divided 50-50, with some state specific exceptions.  Judges do not take into account the age, health, or employment prospects of the parties in dividing assets.  However, these factors will be considered in determining alimony.  Community property states are known to have very generous alimony laws, to accommodate for the lack of individualization in the division of assets.

Equitable Distribution in a Mississippi Divorce

Equitable distribution is the most common system used for division of assets, embraced in the remaining 41 states not described above.  Mississippi is an equitable distribution state.  In an equitable distribution state, assets are allocated to each spouse on the basis for fairness.  Courts take into account the circumstances of the spouses and divide accordingly.  Some of the factors considered include:

  • The contributions of each party to the marital property
  • Time spent on family duties during the marriage
  • Contributions to the stability and harmony of the family
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Contributions to the education, training, or other accomplishment increasing the earning capacity of a spouse
  • A spouse’s disposal of marital assets
  • The market value as well as emotional value of the assets subject to distribution
  • The value of the assets not subject to distribution, such as inheritance
  • Tax consequences of proposed distribution
  • The needs of the parties for financial security

As is clear from these factors, equitable distribution does not always mean equal distribution.  Before the court can weigh the above factors, it must determine what the marital assets are.  Marital assets are those assets acquired through the efforts of one or both parties during the marriage.  Included in the marital asset definition is added value, as where a property acquired before the marriage increases in value during the marriage.  For instance, if one spouse had a home before the marriage and it increased in value $50,000, that increase in value would usually be considered a marital asset.

Comparing the two systems, you can see that the outcome of your divorce might vary significantly depending on whether you divorce in a community property or equitable distribution state.  You are not necessarily bound by the division of asset laws of your state, however.  You can create a pre or post-marital agreement that sets out the division of assets in the event of divorce.

Division of assets is often a highly contested area in any divorce.  An experienced divorce attorney can fully explain the equitable distribution laws in your state and assist you in obtaining the most favorable asset division possible.

Matthew S. Poole is an experienced Mississippi divorce attorney with years of experience in the realm of asset division.  He will fight tirelessly on your behalf to achieve the asset allocation you desire.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.