Monday, May 2, 2016

Family Use Doctrine

The “family-use” doctrine is a relatively new legal doctrine Mississippi courts have recognized and applied in divorce cases; the Mississippi Court of Appeals first recognized the doctrine in 2001. See Brame v. Brame, 796 So. 2d 970 (Miss. Ct. App. 2001). Under the “family-use” doctrine, otherwise separate, non-marital property may be classified as–or converted to–“marital” property if such property is used for familial benefit during the marriage. This legal doctrine applies to both real and personal property–including real estate, homes, cash in bank accounts, and the like. Rhodes v. Rhodes, 52 So. 3d 430, 437 (Miss. Ct. App. 2011) (“[I]t is sufficient to say that the family-use doctrine has proper application with respect to real property . . . .”); Pittman v. Pittman, 791 So. 2d 857, 866-67 (Miss. Ct. App. 2001) (applying the family-use doctrine to furniture, china, silver, and jewelry). So whether the property at issue in a divorce case is a pre-marital home or money in a separate (non-joint) bank account, either can be converted into “marital” property in a divorce case if used for familial benefit.

Between the family use doctrine and commingling, separate property gets harder and harder to keep. 

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