Family Law: Living Together vs Getting Married-Huge Legal Consequences in Mississippi For Couples Who Divorce Or Separate

Posted by Leslie ShumakeOct 13, 20210 Comments

     As a general rule, and except for isolated cases, Mississippi Family Law does not recognize "Palimony" or any rights of an unmarried person to any asset that is titled solely in the other person's name.

     This is true without regard to the length of the relationship or the financial contributions of the parties to the relationship, although it appears that one would have a better chance of some type of exception to the general rule if the parties lived together for many years.  The Chancery Courts of Mississippi handle these kinds of cases, and the good news is that the Chancellors generally have some leeway to render a decision which is fair and equitable, even if the parties never married.  Examples of cases where a division of the parties' assets were allowed, even without a marriage, are as follows:  (I use the terms "husband" and "wife" for clarification purposes.)  

1.  A "husband and wife" had a formal wedding ceremony and lived and worked together for over ten (10) years.  The "husband" did not inform his "wife" that he had failed to get a divorce from his former wife.  Thus, the second marriage was void from the beginning. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that, although the second wife was legally never married to her husband, she was entitled to a fair division of the property.  Details can be found in Chrismond vs Chrismond, 52 So. 2d 624 (Miss. 1951).

2.  A "wife" was actually married to another man at the time of her second marriage.  The second "husband" knew this, but married her anyway.  They then lived together for twenty (20) years before separating.  The Supreme Court in that case approved a monthly sum of $75.00 to the wife for 36 months in the interest of fairness.   Taylor vs Taylor, 317 So. 2d 422 (Miss. 1975).

3.  A "husband and wife" were married in 1948, divorced in 1962, and started living together again in 1963.  For twenty years they maintained a "marriage-type-relationship"  (the Court's words), and had two children during that time.  They separated in 1983, and the Court ruled that the "wife" was entitled to a fair division of their assets.  Pickens vs Pickens, 490 So.2d 872 (Miss. 1986)

4.  A couple married in 1973, had one daughter, and divorced in 1983.  One month later they started living together, had a second daughter, and finally separated in 1994.   The Court ruled that the "wife" was entitled to a fair division of the assets accumulated during their "co-habitation" period.  Woolridge vs Wooldridge, 856 So. 2d 446 (Miss. App. 2003)

      But, the following situation explains the potential for disaster, financially at least, for one of the parties:

A couple lived together for 13 years without marrying and the husband's net worth during this period rose from $850,000.00 to over $7 million dollars.  They had one child during the marriage and the "husband" asked the "wife" to marry him "at least once."  She refused.  In refusing to grant the "wife" a share of the "husband's" substantial assets, the Court said, "When opportunity knocks, one must answer its call."   Davis vs Davis, 643 So. 2d 932 (Miss. 1994).                           

Although there are an increasing number of cases making their way through the courts with these types of issues, there have been few instance where the Courts have approved any type of fair division of property between unmarried individuals.    

There also an interesting case wherein I represented the wife, Cotton vs Cotton, which you can find on my "Divorce" page.