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High Profile Divorce

High Profile Divorce in Mississippi

When the public is interested in the outcome of your divorce, things can get a little messy if not handled with care. Whether you are an elected official, professional athlete, artist, physician, attorney, business executive, pastor or you are living in the shadow of one, divorce can be the great equalizer. When your private life is the subject of digital and print stories, or your family is being talked about at the country club, public relations create an added headache to an already life altering set of events. While the public's interest in your life or the number of zeros in your income or personal financial statement may be different than most Mississippians, the hurt you feel about lost love and the trauma to your children is exactly the same.  

Laura Wasser is a celebrity divorce attorney in Beverly Hills. In an online interview, she had this to say about her work: 

“My job’s not glamorous. My clients’ jobs are glamorous. It doesn’t help me if they’re on tour or making a movie; it makes it more difficult to figure out the timing. The paparazzi only take pictures of me if I’m with somebody famous. People call us celebrity divorce attorneys a lot. We’re not the celebrities. We represent celebrities.”

The lawyers of R+E are not celebrities either.

We may appreciate the work you do, we may even be fans, but we are not that interested in your autograph or even being your friend.

You are used to people saying “Yes” to you, but what you really need in this situation is disinterested feedback about what the law has to say about your life, from a 10,000-foot view. If you only surround yourself with people who say exactly what you want to hear, you may be greatly disappointed when things turn out differently in divorce. You need someone who will pour their energy into a quick and quiet resolution, who has no interest in being quoted in the paper or being seen on the 6 o’clock news.

Mississippi is a relatively poor state, and our Chancellors typically deal with people who live check to check. You are not like that, but you have not always been famous, and it can end just as fast as it began. You and your spouse are riding a personal roller coaster in the public spotlight. Sometimes you are slowly rising and sometimes you are sharply falling. There are flat spots and twisty spots and every now and then, you go totally upside down. When you and your spouse are a team and buckled in tightly to the cart, it can be an exhilarating ride. You throw your arms in the air, wave ‘em like you just don’t care, and laugh and cry and hold on tight. But when people are not acting like partners in marriage, a bumpy ride can get dangerous. You may be about to go over the top of an incline, ready to start a fall, but because you are not in a partnership marriage, your spouse does not want to ride any more. They are psychologically in the historic incline or flat spot although the reality of the family is very different.

At R+E, we represent a number of people like you- people who are willing to take big risks in hopes for a big reward. 

You are our favorite type of client, especially if you are self-made. The R+E team gets pumped to work with people like you who will take a calculated gamble to achieve success. Indeed, risk takers are sometimes just as likely to go bust as they are to ride the rocket ship of success, and no two cases are exactly alike. Especially when it is a high profile situation. While people’s lives can seem similar for sure, what appears to be a subtle distinction on the surface can make a huge difference as to how a situation will turn out.  From award winning artists, public figures at the highest level to professional athletes at the top of their games, the divorce pros of R+E have been their helpers and adversaries.  Whether you have an eight-figure estate or you are on your way to one, no case is too big for our experienced team.

Help Us Help You

One of the ways you can help yourself streamline the divorce process is to begin gathering documents which are commonly requested. The easiest way to do this is to obtain a USB storage device and save electronic copies of the following documents. While this list is not comprehensive, it will help you get a good head start on the information exchanges which usually take place during the process of divorce. We recommend you continue to gather new information as it becomes available to you.

  • Copies of your last several paycheck stubs if you receive one;
  • Copies of your last three annual state and federal income tax returns in full form as filed, including those which were prepared for any business in which you have an ownership interest;
  • The last six monthly account statements for all of your personal and business banking, investment, retirement and/or credit card accounts;
  • A copy of your most recent Social Security Statement;
  • Any financial statement you have prepared for any reason in the last three years;
  • Copies of all insurance policies that are maintained by your or for your benefit;
  • Deeds and debt instruments for all real estate owned by your personally or through any business interest you may have; and
  • Any other document which you believe will help us understand your situation better.

We Can Help You

Here is the way this works. Have someone call our office (601-898-8655) or confidentially submit a basic intake form so our staff can complete a standard conflict check. That’s when we make sure nothing on this end will stand in the way of us being helpful. Then, we will schedule a time for you and your team to talk to one or more of our attorneys to go over your situation.

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FAQs related to High Profile Divorce

No, it is not necessary to catch your spouse in the act. Due to the secretive nature of affairs, Mississippi courts do not require direct proof to grant a divorce on the grounds of adultery. In order to prove a case for adultery, one must show that their spouse has had the inclination and opportunity to have an affair.

Yes.  You must have an agreement or a reason to divorce in Mississippi. This fact doesn’t just puzzle people faced with divorce; family law attorneys who practice in other states think it is bizarre as well. Mississippi is in a small minority of states viewing marriage through this lens. Notwithstanding an annual try by a few brave legislators, our state simply refuses to make it easier to get a divorce. Because proving a legal reason is often pretty difficult, it puts the more motivated spouse in a less leveraged position. Simply stated, whether or not grounds for divorce exist can create unjust outcomes.

No, a mother is not automatically entitled to physical custody of her children. This is a common misconception. Mothers and fathers have equal rights to their children under the law, and courts are not supposed to hold preconceived notions on the issue. Parents can either agree to a custody arrangement, or go to court and let the judge decide. A court’s determination of custody will rely on an analysis of the Albright factors, which are as follows:

  • Age, health and gender of the child.
  • Parent having continuity of care prior to the separation.
  • Parent with best parenting skills and willingness and capacity to provide primary child care.
  • Employment of the parent and responsibilities of that employment.
  • Physical and mental health and age of the parent.
  • Emotional ties of parent to child.
  • Moral fitness of the parent.
  • Home, school and coomunity record of the child.
  • Preference of the child at age sufficient to express a preference.
  • Stability of parent’s home environment and employment of each parent.
  • Relative financial situation of the parents.
  • Difference in religion of the parents.
  • Differences in personal values of the parents.
  • Differences in lifestyle of the parents.
  • Other factors relevant to the parent-child relationship.

In Mississippi, the value of a business or practice in a divorce is straightforward. According to the Mississippi Supreme Court, the value must be determined on a “fair market value” basis and the only approved valuation methodology is the Net Asset Approach, which calculates the value of the assets and liabilities with no entity or personal goodwill, but with appropriate discounts related to marketability and control. The valuation date is set by the Court. All of this appears simple. However, it can quickly become complex if a spouse owned a business or practice prior to the marriage, inherited a business, or acquired or sold a part or all of a business during the marriage. These events might lead to issues such as value appreciation, commingling of assets, or transmutation that must be carefully analyzed.  (Special thanks to Jim Koerber, CVA) 

In short, it depends. However, the absolute shortest amount of time that two individuals can get a divorce in Mississippi is sixty (60) days from the date that the Complaint for Divorce is filed. Realistically, irreconcilable differences cases take several months to complete, while a divorce on fault grounds can take up to and over a year. The length of time that the proceedings take are influenced by many outside factors that your lawyer will not be able to control, such as your spouse, your spouse’s lawyer, and the Judge’s schedule.

As with so many other questions regarding divorce, it depends. The cost of a divorce proceeding can vary from relatively inexpensive to extremely expensive, depending on the complexity of the issues involved in the case. In order to even estimate such an expense, it is necessary to have a consultation with a professional so that they can evaluate all of the circumstances involved in your situation.

Sometimes valuing property is very simple and can include merely looking to financial statements. Sometimes, however, it is more complicated and we must hire professionals to value the property. How property is valued is largely determined by the specific circumstances, but it is always valued at a fair market value—which means the price a willing buyer would pay the seller given the buyer knows all the details and circumstances surrounding the property.

No, in Mississippi it is not necessary to have a trial to obtain a divorce. In fact, the majority of Mississippi divorces are negotiated and settled outside of court. However, in order to obtain a divorce without a trial, the parties must agree to a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, which is our legal term for “no fault.”

Not necessarily. Fault is not specifically considered by the court, but each parties' contribution to the stability and harmony of the home is a Ferguson factor. In addition, if it is determined one spouse committed adultery, the cheating spouse should only receive ongoing support if they would be destitute without it. 

Maybe. One often used defense to adultery is “condonation.” Condonation is the forgiveness of a marital wrong. Condonation may be expressed or implied. Staying in the same home does not constitute condonation and does not act as a bar to a divorce being granted, but some older cases talk about how one act of sex may be considered “forgiveness.” However, even if a true condonation exists, it is conditioned on the offending spouse's continued good behavior and full knowledge of what is being forgiven. One cannot forgive what they do not know. If your spouse does not discontinue the affair, you still have grounds for divorce. In practical effect, condonation places your spouse on a form of temporary probation. So long as he observes the conditions on which the forgiveness rests, you do not have grounds for divorce. It is necessary also that the condonation be free and voluntary. If it is induced by fraud, fear or force, it is of no effect.

Until the entry of a court order, your rights following separation are the same as they were while you and your spouse were living together. This means you and your spouse enjoy the same equal rights to your home, personal property, and children as you did before. This is often the most chaotic period of the divorce process, so communication with your spouse, if possible, can be crucial. We like to call this the “storm before the calm.”

The Ferguson factors are the considerations derived from a leading Mississippi case that courts now use to determine how to fairly divide property. They are: (1) substantial contribution to property accumulation; (2) spousal use or disposition of assets and distribution by agreement; (3) market and emotional value of assets; (4) value of each spouse’s separate estate; (5) tax consequences and legal consequences to third parties; (6) the extent to which property division can eliminate the need for alimony; (7) the needs of each spouse; (8) other factors which should be considered in equity.

Glad you asked!  Our friend Branden Henry came up with a great list. We also have a larger list compiled from counselor friends you can download here.

There is actually no such thing as a “standard” visitation arrangement. Custody and visitation schedules are each unique, and can be structured around the families that will be living under them. Perhaps the most common situation is for the noncustodial parent to have visitation with their children every other weekend, with a night of visitation in the middle of the weeks in which they will not have weekend visitation. It is also common for parents to alternate holidays, and for each to have extended periods of time with the children in the summer.

An attorney the court appoints to represent the best interests of a child in a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case.

Lump sum alimony is usually a one-time payment used to compensate one party who may not have benefitted as much as the other party during the process of equitable division of property.

Permanent alimony is what most people think of as the traditional type of alimony—monthly payments awarded to take the place of the support given during marriage. It terminates at the death of either party or when the recipient remarries. It can also be modified based on changed circumstances.

A parent who has physical custody of their children is the parent with which the children live most of the time. Typically, one parent will have physical custody of the children, while their former spouse will have rights to periods of visitation with the kids. It is possible for parents to share joint physical custody of the children. Under these circumstances, the children typically spend an equal amount of time with each parent.

 Rehabilitative alimony is a specific type of alimony used to keep one spouse “on their feet” after a divorce and while that spouse prepares to re-enter the workforce. It allows a spouse who may not have been working for a period of time during the marriage to have stability in order to adjust to working again.

Reimbursement alimony repays one spouse for the support he or she gave the other spouse during the marriage. Common examples of this include when one spouse worked and supported the other spouse through school.

Marital property is property obtained during the marriage, whereas non-marital property is property given to one spouse through gift or inheritance. It is important to remember that courts presume property is marital unless one party proves it is non-marital by showing the property was given to that spouse by specific gift or inheritance.

Your course of action should depend on your goal. If it is your desire to reconcile with your spouse and work on your marriage, then confronting him or her would be best. On the other hand, if reconciliation is not option, you may want to keep quiet and gather evidence. Cell phone and text messaging records typically speak volumes. Hiring a private investigator is also an option. While PI’s can be relatively costly, the results of their investigation can be quite valuable.

There is a misconception among Mississippians that a child may choose the parent with whom he or she wishes to live upon reaching the age of twelve. This is simply not the case. There must be a showing of material changes in circumstances since the last Order which have had an adverse affect on the child and that their best interest, coupled with the parental selection. While our law on this topic is well settled, many chancellors believe that if a child has made a choice, it should be honored. This is not the law.

The best way to think about how marital property is created is by determining whether any marital energy was used to earn income or grow the asset.  If you bring something into a marriage, or you receive it by gift or inheritance, you did not expend energy during your marriage to obtain it.  However, if you went to work everyday to earn income that resulted in the purchase of something, or you stayed at home and kept the children exerting energy while your spouse went to the office, those efforts result in the creation of marital property. 

Probably not. Most business interests in Mississippi are not easily sold.  To accomplish equitable distribution, all marital assets are considered, but not every asset is necessarily divided.  A business is the best example of this type of asset.  Courts routinely use lump sum alimony to balance each spouse's interest.   

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When you think you are ready to be more informed through customized analysis, the best thing we offer is to sit with you in person or over a conference call to educate you and think through your goals and a plan to accomplish them. This will make you feel better –more informed and more in control. You can start the process by simply calling the office or by clicking the link below to confidentially submit an Intake Form and we will contact you.

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