Archive for the ‘Mississippi Asset Division Articles’ Category

Who Gets Fido? A Look at Pet Custody in Mississippi

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Bill and Susie met their family dog Jasper when they were just newlyweds.  Fresh from their honeymoon, Jasper wondered into their yard searching for scraps.  He soon became their loving, cherished pet.  When Bill and Susie’s relationship later deteriorated, and the threat of divorce became a reality, each made it very clear they wanted custody of Jasper.

Bill and Susie became entrenched in an increasingly common phenomenon—a pet custody battle.  Surveys show that over 70% of U.S. households contain at least one pet.  More than ever before, American families have come to view their pets as essential members of the family.  When spouses decide to divorce, many are left grappling with the issue of who should get the family pet.

So what should you do if you are or may become entrenched in a pet custody battle?  The following are a list of pointers:

  1. Consult with a local divorce attorney—the first step you should always take is to consult with a skilled divorce attorney in your state.  Pet custody is a fairly new issue that courts are still struggling to deal with.  A knowledgeable divorce attorney will often have experience with pet custody fights and will be able to advise you as to the best course of action.  Because pets are traditionally considered “property” in the eyes of the law, you will need the assistance of a savvy divorce attorney to ensure your pet custody dispute receives the attention it deserves.
  2. Gather documents to prove ownership– in many states, including Mississippi, pets are considered property.  Therefore, if you can show that you purchased your pet or adopted him/her, it may go a long way towards being awarded possession of your pet.
  3. Gather evidence you were the primary caregiver—if, like Bill and Susie, you cannot show ownership or you were not in fact the spouse to acquire the pet, do not despair.  Another method that has proven successful in court is showing that you were the primary caregiver of your pet.  This can include things like statements from neighbors who saw you consistently walking your dog, receipts showing you purchased your cat’s food, vet bills showing you brought in your ferret, etc.
  4. Start to negotiate—one of the best means to avoid the court room and ensure the outcome you desire is to negotiate with your spouse as to the custody of your pet.  Often the assistance of a divorce attorney with negotiation experience will be your best bet towards achieving success.  In negotiating with your spouse to receive custody of your pet, you could consider splitting up pets in multiple pet households, keeping the pet with your child, or even some sort of joint custody arrangement so you both maintain contact with your pet.  An experience divorce attorney with experience thinking outside the box can work with you and your spouse to create an arrangement that everyone, including your pet, is happy with.

Pet custody is a fairly novel issue for Mississippi courts.  While pets have been traditionally considered property, more and more courts are open to viewing pets more like family members than pieces of property.  In the case of Bill and Susie, they were able to agree that Susie would keep Jasper during the year and Bill would take him during the summers.  This arrangement suited both, as Susie worked fewer hours and could be home with the dog, while Bill’s workload lessened in the summer, freeing him to spend time with Jasper.

If you are considering divorce and anticipate their might disagreement over the custody of your pet, Matthew S. Poole can help.  Matthew is a skilled, compassionate Mississippi divorce attorney with experience in creative problem solving.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

The Retirement Pension—Potentially One of the Most Valuable Assets in the Mississippi Divorce

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Generally speaking, the marital home and the retirement pension may be the assets worth the most during a divorce, and, in many cases, the retirement pension may actually have more worth than the home. Particularly for women, the “golden-years” of retirement can be fraught with financial uncertainty, making the pension even more important. More than twice as many men as woman have retirement benefits and the benefits for men are nearly always higher than those of the woman. Further, many women spend years putting their spouse through school or raising the children, foregoing their own career only to find themselves facing vastly reduced circumstances during a marital breakup.

The woman’s contributions to her own retirement pension are negatively impacted making it even more important that she have a solid understanding of her husband’s pension. Because the division and distribution of pensions can be complicated, the woman in the divorce may grab at the more immediate need—the marital home—particularly if she still has children at home. Pensions may have much more long-term value but unlike cash in the bank or stocks and bonds, the rights to a pension involve:

  • Classification
  • Valuation
  • Distribution
  • Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
  • Other miscellaneous areas including post-decree increases

Pension benefits earned prior to marriage remain the pension-earner’s separate property however any pension benefits earned during the marriage become community property. A valuation date will be established in order to accurately determine pension benefits. Under a defined benefit plan, the value can fluctuate dramatically after a separation but before the divorce. Suppose a pension is valued at $500,000 and the non-employee spouse is awarded $250,000 of that in the settlement. Then, prior to the settlement date the market takes a nosedive and the pension is only valued at $300,000. This means the non-employee spouse still walks away with $250,000 while the employee spouse is left shortchanged.

The account must be appraised to determine its present value; the valuation method may be present value, also known as “cash out” value, deferred division where no present value is determined or reserved jurisdiction whereby the court retains authority to order distribution at some point in the future. Reserved jurisdiction leaves both parties in limbo and is not considered a good outcome for a pension plan during the divorce. Using the cash out method is certainly the easiest way to divide the pension during settlement negotiations—the non-employee spouse is awarded a lump-sum settlement with the employee-spouse retaining the pension. However, for long-term financial benefits, the deferred division may result in a higher settlement for the non-employee spouse.

What is a QDRO?

A QDRO tells the pension plan administrator exactly how the pension will be divided, according to the judge’s ruling in the divorce. The QDRO must be prepared following the guidelines of the company’s pension plan but must also conform to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Any adjustments or options for early withdrawal must be made available to the non-employee spouse as well as the employee-spouse. The QDRO applies to the 401(k), the IRA or any other traditional pension plan which qualifies for special tax treatment. Most military and government pensions are covered under other laws, and QDRO’s only apply to plans qualified through the IRS. Railroad retirement benefits, Social Security payments, Workman’s Comp awards for disability and compensation for military injuries generally do not fall under retirement benefits. If your spouse has any of these types of benefits, you should speak with your divorce attorney to determine whether you are entitled to other benefits in lieu of a portion of these non-pension benefits.

Other Pension Considerations

Discuss with your attorney whether the pension division will affect your child support payments as in some instances it could. Most pensions specify a retirement date of sixty-five, although there are exceptions—find out what your spouse’s particular plan states. Because QDRO’s and pension plans can be extremely complex, your divorce attorney must have the necessary experience and knowledge in order to ensure you receive the most equitable settlement possible.

Call Today for a Highly Qualified Assessment of Your Divorce

Finding an attorney with the necessary experience in pension division can be difficult however the Law Offices of Matthew S. Pool has that experience and will use it to your advantage. Our goal is to ensure you receive a fair divorce settlement—one that allows you to live in much the same manner as you were living prior to the divorce. We want to make your life easier and less stressful during a time we recognize as extremely challenging. Matthew S. Poole deliberately maintains a lower case load to ensure he is always available to his clients. You are not simply another “case” to us—we have the resources and skills which will make your divorce less anxiety-inducing. Call us today at (601) 573-7429 or take a look at our website for additional information.

How High Net Worth Could Affect Your Mississippi Divorce

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

If you are going through a divorce, you will be dealing with a variety of potentially difficult issues, all the way from child custody to the equitable division of assets. When a high net worth on the part of one or both partners exists, those issues can multiply exponentially, making the divorce considerably more stressful for those involved. Perhaps the most important issue when an individual of high net worth and a less affluent spouse are divorcing is that unknown assets cannot be properly valued and distributed.

When Only One Spouse Has a High Net Worth

The savvy divorce attorney will first identify all assets involved, gathering all information and evidence in order to support his or her client as assets sometimes go “missing” during particularly contentious divorces. Individuals of high net worth who are divorcing their less affluent spouses bring complex issues to the table. Interrogatories and document demands must be prepared which fully address all investments and assets. In many cases your attorney may recommend that you hire a forensic accountant or a financial investigator who can thoroughly investigate the spouse with the high net worth, particularly if you feel assets are being squirreled away.

When Both Spouses Have a High Net Worth

You would think that if both spouses have considerable assets and holdings it would be much simpler to accomplish an equitable distribution between the two, however this is not always the case. High net worth on both sides means the division becomes much more complicated, particularly if assets have been freely commingled during the marriage. It can become very difficult, especially in marriages of long duration, to accurately determine what each party brought to the marriage as well as what each has contributed during the marriage.

Hard-to-Value Assets

Division of assets in any divorce can be extremely anxiety-producing for those involved, but when the marital estate contains hard-to-value assets or a business, the anxiety can increase. Perhaps one party enjoyed a more successful career, came from a wealthy family or simply brought more assets into the marriage from the very start. Whether you are the person with more assets or the one concerned about your future, it is imperative you have an experienced divorce attorney by your side from the very beginning. Once a thorough evaluation of businesses, stocks and investments is determined and all assets are believed to be honestly presented, the divorce attorney begins the job of developing a comprehensive overview of the demands of his client.

Equitable Distribution in Mississippi

Mississippi is an equitable distribution state with the added caveat that each spouse may retain his or her property for which a valid title is held, however jointly titled property will be split. If the property settlement is disputed, a judge will make a decision on the asset distribution—and that decision may not be to either party’s liking. Marital assets are generally defined in Mississippi as property accumulated during the marriage, with exceptions such as inheritances exempt from such division. The courts will look at what you contributed to the marriage, both in financial assets as well as homemaker contributions and taking care of the children. Marital debts are also subject to division which is an important point for couples who carry significant credit card debt, mortgage debt, medical or other debt. Retirement benefits are also subject to division in most cases.

A Lawyer for Your High Net Worth Divorce

Divorce is difficult no matter the level of assets. Matthew S. Poole is an experienced attorney who can recommend forensic accounting experts and tax accountants to determine whether all assets have been properly stated and valued. As your divorce attorney, Matthew’s goal is to ensure your standard of living is not denigrated by the divorce and that your share of the marital estate will be maximized to the extent possible. No matter the extent or variety of your particular assets or those of your spouse, Matthew Poole will represent your interests aggressively while listening to your concerns. Matthew will work closely with you to obtain the best possible outcome and will use his extensive knowledge of Mississippi divorce to reach that outcome. Call (601) 573-7429 today to speak with Matthew Poole.