A court determining property division and alimony is required to look at certain factors. What are known as the Ferguson factors related to property division include how much each party substantially contributed to accumulating property, the degree to which each spouse has disposed of marital assets, the market value of the assets, the value of the assets minus equitable factors, tax and other economic consequences, the extent to which property division can be used to eliminate sources of friction, the needs of the parties to achieve financial security, and any other factors that should be considered to make an equitable division.
The Armstrong factors to be considered in connection with an alimony award are the spouses’ income and expenses, the parties’ earning ability, the parties’ needs, the parties’ obligations and assets, how long the marriage was, the presence of minors, the parties’ age, their standard of living during the marriage and when support was being determined, tax consequences, spousal fault or misconduct, the waste of assets, and any other factor considered just and equitable to set alimony.
In a recent appeal, a woman sued for divorce, and the couple agreed that it was on the basis of irreconcilable differences. A chancellor had to decide issues of alimony, equitable distribution, and attorneys’ fees. A judgment of divorce was executed, in which the divorce was granted and the marital assets were divided. The wife was awarded $1,360 on a monthly basis from the husband’s retirement account, with this payment to be made for 12 years. The wife appealed on the grounds that no specific findings were made and that the chancellor had failed to make specific findings about alimony.
The couple had married in 1998, and during the marriage, the husband was a community college dean who earned about $80,000 each year to start. The wife worked as a registered nurse but quit in 2012 because of her health, and she received more than $1,000 each month from a trust her mother, now deceased, had established. Her father also gave her money each year, sometimes on a monthly basis.
The husband retired in 2010 with a salary of about $150,000. That year, the couple bought their marital home in Tupelo for $166,000; it was purchased outright with mostly funds from the wife’s father. During retirement, the husband kept doing contract work and earned about $6,900 each month, but he planned to retire from this position in 2016. He’d accumulated $67,767 in his retirement account in connection with the contract position. The couple separated in 2014. The appraised value of their home was $220,000, and the couple’s savings account had $341,329.
An oral ruling was made but not included on the record. The judgment gave the wife the marital home, divided the couple’s savings account and assets, and awarded the wife a portion of the husband’s state retirement, to be paid for 12 years. The court didn’t reference the Ferguson factors or guidelines related to this division and alimony. The appellate court explained that a failure to provide a factor-based analysis didn’t necessarily require reversal if it was clear the chancellor considered the relevant facts.
However, in this case, the appellate court didn’t find the chancellor adequately applied the factors. The husband also argued that the amount awarded from the retirement account wasn’t alimony but an equitable division of marital assets. The chancellor hadn’t made specific findings as to the Armstrong factors. The judgment was reversed.
M. Devin Whitt is an experienced divorce and family law attorney practicing in Jackson, Mississippi who can help you manage any issues that may arise in the division of marital property or a request for alimony during a divorce. Contact the Law Office of M. Devin Whitt for a free consultation at 601-607-5055.
More Blog Posts:
Personal Injury Awards and Property Division in Mississippi Divorce, January 7, 2015