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How do Mississippi courts divide marital assets in a divorce?

One of the most crucial questions in almost every divorce is "how will the court divide the couple's property and income producing assets?" In the case of Ferguson v. Ferguson, the Mississippi Supreme Court established eight guidelines to assist chancery courts in making this decision. The guidelines have subsequently become known as the Ferguson Factors, and they are used in every divorce case in which the spouses cannot agree between themselves on how to divide their property.

The underlying principle for all of the factors governing property division is fairness. The court must balance the interests of each party and reach a decision that does not unfairly favor one party over the other. The first factor is deciding which spouse made a substantial contribution to the accumulation of property. This factor is not based solely upon economic contribution but also on the maintenance of a harmonious marital and family relationship and the contribution made by one spouse to the education and training of the other.

The court must also consider whether either spouse has disposed of assets during the marriage. The value of the assets is an obvious factor to be considered. The tax and economic consequences of any proposed property distribution must also be taken into account. The needs of each party for financial security ahould also be considered, along with the income and earning capacity of each spouse. Finally, the court must consider "any other factor which in equity should be considered."

Anyone contemplating a divorce and the division of substantial assets may wish to consider consulting an experienced family law attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can provide useful advice on how the court is likely to divide marital assets, assist in negotiating a settlement and provide an estimate of the likely outcome if the parties cannot reach their own agreement.

Source: Mississippi Supreme Court, Ferguson v. Ferguson, 639 So. 2d 921 (Miss. 1994), accessed on April 15, 2017

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