When do we determine the value of assets for equitable distribution purposes? The date of separation? The date of divorce? Or some other date, such as the date of the temporary order? The Court has described this valuation date as the “point of demarcation.” The Court has opted to leave the matter open, holding that it is necessary that a chancellor maintain discretion to decide in each instance. Lowrey v. Lowrey, 25 So. 3d 274, 285 (Miss.2009). With no hard and fast rule, confusion remains.
One Judge tried to hold that it could divide a pension fund, even though it did not start accumulating value until after separation, stating that assets accumulated up until the divorce, but he was reversed, the Supreme Court stating, “while the marriage had not legally terminated, the relationship out of which equitable distribution arises had ended some months earlier.” Selman v. Selman, 722 So. 2d 547 (Miss. 1998)
The court has held that a temporary order may be considered by the chancellor to be a point of demarcation, but it has also been quick to point out that even though the temporary order might often be a valid point, it is not always. Collins v. Collins, NO. 2010–CT–01909–SCT (5/9/13).
Points to consider are the nature of contributions, the timing of contributions and the nature of the asset. A stock account, where neither party contributes, would seem to be best divided upon the date of the divorce, while a pension that grows with contributions after separation might best be valued at separation. Savings accounts might best be valued on the date of the temporary order when the Court assigns financial and support responsibilities. These are just one lawyer’s ideas, though.