To provide you the support you need when getting a divorce in Mississippi, we've assembled the following resources to make the process easier. You'll find a range of solutions from DIY divorce papers and related services to legal professionals who can help you every step of the way. You'll also find a list of related child support services including enforcement agencies, relevant divorce laws, as well as parenting classes and investigative services. We've also included abuse help contact information and support groups in your area.
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The law firm of Chinn & Associates handles all divorce and family law matters with personal interest and concern for their client's well-being. With a team of dedicated professionals and a commitment to serving the needs of each individual client, our firm delivers solutions to all the financial and legal issues that arise in a divorce.
Local Divorce Attorneys - Find out how you can present information about your case and correspond with attorneys prepared to represent you.
If you're thinking about doing your own divorce, you're faced with different options for getting it done. You can get forms from your local courthouse, but there is not a lot of direction to help you fill them out. This is where using an online service makes sense. US Legal goes beyond the do-it-yourself kits with a system that completes the paperwork as you answer various questions about your situation. Find out more.
If you want to take a parenting class to learn how to better co-parent with your ex, or if you are required by the court to complete such a class before the divorce will be finalized, find out more about your divorce parenting class options.
DivorceCare Divorce Recovery Groups
These support groups are generally offered through various churches. They also offer a support group for children and teenagers. When you visit the site, you can locate the various locations that are currently offering support services.
You can look for other support groups for adults, parents, and children, as well online support forums and domestic violence resources on our Divorce Groups for Support and Healing page.
Domestic Abuse Support and Crisis Services from the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Unlike other states, in the state of Mississippi your divorce will be heard in Chancery Court—an English judicial system carryover. Every Mississippi county has its own Chancery Court, and those divorcing will file in the Chancery Court in the county where the Respondent resides, the Chancery Court in the county where the parties lived at the time of a marital separation or in the Chancery Court where the Petitioner is living if the Respondent is not a Mississippi resident.
Another divorce fact which makes a divorce in Mississippi at least somewhat different from most other states, is that Mississippi law requires consent by both parties if the divorce is being sought on grounds of irreconcilable differences. This consent must either be in the form of a written agreement, or both parties must give their consent to the court to allow the court to decide the divorce issues on behalf of the parties when there is no agreement on those issues.
In short, a divorce based on irreconcilable differences cannot be valid without the consent on the part of each spouse. When one party refuses to accept the terms of the divorce as requested by the other party or refuses to allow the court to make those decisions for them, then the couple must choose a fault-based divorce and one spouse must sue the other for divorce.
To qualify for a divorce in the state of Mississippi, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing. If one spouse is a member of the armed forces stationed in Mississippi, both spouses are considered a residents of the state. Mississippi also has a waiting period of sixty days if you and your spouse file for divorce on the basis of irreconcilable differences (no hearing will be held for a minimum of 60 days).
When a divorce is filed, the person filing the divorce (Petitioner) must identify the reason for the divorce, known as the “ground” for divorce. In the state of Mississippi, you can file under no-fault or fault. In a no-fault divorce you do not have to go into detail about why your marriage is ending, you must only cite “irreconcilable differences.”
In a no-fault divorce, you are simply stating there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, therefore there is typically much less finger pointing. There are critics of the no-fault divorce who feel that it makes divorce “too easy.” Of course, most people who have gone through a divorce would agree that divorce is never easy, regardless of whether fault is stated.
In the state of Mississippi, a couple can also choose to file under a fault as grounds for divorce. The fault grounds in the state include, but are not limited to the following:
Only the injured party is allowed to file for divorce stating grounds for the divorce. For example, if a husband cheats on his wife, only the wife is allowed to file for divorce using adultery as grounds for the divorce (unless the other spouse also committed adultery).
It is important that anyone considering stating grounds for a divorce be aware that the alleging spouse must prove the allegations in court, through witness testimony, evidence and documentation. Perhaps the only reason a spouse would want to allege grounds for divorce in the state of Mississippi lies in the fact that the court’s finding that one spouse is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage could potentially affect the amount of spousal support awarded.
Your divorce may be contested or uncontested. Since most couples who have reached the point of divorce probably do not see eye-to-eye about many issues, it is no surprise that they are also very unlikely to agree on divorce issues.
If the divorce is not a mutual agreement, then one spouse may be contesting the divorce itself. And if that does not get the desired result, then he or she is likely to disagree with virtually every single decision regarding asset division, child custody, child support, spousal support and visitation rights. In many cases, even a divorce which starts out as an uncontested divorce can quickly become not only contested but hotly contested. In an uncontested divorce the spouses are at least mostly in agreement about the issues at hand.
Regardless of how you feel about your spouse, if the two of you cannot agree on divorce issues a judge will be making those decisions for you—and it is highly unlikely either of you will be happy with the outcome. Because of this, it is highly advised that you and your spouse find a way to work out divorce issues. When the two of you work together, you are in control of your own future rather than having decisions which affect your future made for you.
When you begin the process of divorce, either you or your spouse will file a Complaint for Divorce with the Clerk’s Office in the chancery court where at least one of you reside. Once you file a Complaint for Divorce, you will also need to make sure your spouse is properly notified. Mississippi allows this to happen in in person, by mail or by publication.
If you choose to have the papers served in person, anyone over the age of 18 (who is not a party to the divorce) can serve the papers, with your spouse signing an acknowledgement. If your spouse refuses to accept the papers and sign the acknowledgement, you can use a sheriff to serve the notice. You could also choose to complete a Service of Process and send the divorce paperwork through the mail. However, your spouse must sign the return receipt and return it to you, then you will file the receipt with the court. If you cannot locate your spouse, you could petition the court to serve the notice via publication in a county newspaper for a minimum of three weeks. When thirty days after the first publication has elapsed, the process service requirement has been met.
If you have properly served your spouse the Complaint for Divorce and he or she fails to respond, the judge can assume the right to be heard is being waived and may award you everything you have asked for in the Complaint. If the divorce is uncontested, the spouse being served could also submit a written Waiver of Process which allows the divorce to proceed.
If the divorce is contested, then the spouse being served will file an Answer which denies some or all of the allegations, and the judge will order a trial. Before the trial rolls around, there could be many hearings and legal proceedings, evidence requested, witness interviews and even depositions taken. While the state of Mississippi does not order mediation as some states do, a couple can choose to use a mediator independent of the courts.
If your divorce is uncontested and you and your spouse agree on virtually all aspects of your divorce, you will create a Marital Settlement Agreement which will detail how you choose to allocate assets, child custody, spousal support and other issues related to the divorce. If there are no children involved, you may not even need a court hearing.
Property distribution in the state of Mississippi follows the laws of equitable distribution rather than community property laws. Under community property law, marital assets must be split 50/50, regardless of the circumstances. Equitable distribution requires that a fair asset split be reached rather than splitting the assets right down the middle.
If spouses cannot reach an agreement regarding asset division, then it will first be determined which assets are considered marital assets and which are considered non-marital assets. The judge will then take into consideration whether one spouse contributed significantly more to asset accumulation than the other, indirect economic contributions (i.e., running the household and taking care of the children), each spouse’s contribution to family stability, and whether one spouse significantly contributed to the education and training of the wage-earning spouse.
Spousal use of assets—or dissipation of marital assets—will be considered, as will the value of each spouse’s separate assets, the market and sentimental value of assets, the tax consequences of the asset division, the extent to which asset division could eliminate the need for spousal support, the needs of each spouse, and any other factors the Chancellor deems necessary to consider.
If the divorce is a “fault” divorce - that is, fault is claimed by one spouse against the other - then this could be a (relatively minor) factor when the judge considers the division of marital assets. As with most divorce issues, if you and your spouse can come to an agreement regarding asset division without getting the court involved, you are probably both likely to be happier with the outcome.
If there is a financial need, a Mississippi court may award spousal support to one spouse. Spousal support may come as periodic payments, a lump sum, or rehabilitative financial support. Periodic spousal support usually comes in the form of monthly payments for a specific length of time. A lump sum spousal support award comes in a single payment, and rehabilitative spousal support lasts for a specified length of time, allowing the receiving spouse to obtain the necessary skills or education to financially support himself or herself.
The court considers the income and debt of each spouse, the age and health of each spouse, the needs of each spouse, whether there are minor children still living at home, the standard of living for the spouses during the marriage, any fault by either spouse, whether either spouse willfully dissipated assets during the marriage and any tax consequences related to the spousal support award.
Just like most all states in the United States, child custody is based on the best interests of the child. Legal custody allows a parent to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child and physical custody refers to which parent the child primarily lives with.
Both parents could share legal custody, making decisions regarding religion, education and health together while one parent has primary physical custody and the other has visitation. Or one parent could have both legal and physical custody. In rare cases, no visitation or supervised visitation could be awarded to one parent, but in most cases the court considers it to be in the best interests of the child to have continual contact with both parents. If a judge must determine custody, he or she will consider the following factors:
Mississippi courts feel parents are obligated to support their minor child until that child reaches the age of 21, joins the military, marries, or stops attending school full-time and obtains full-time employment. Mississippi courts use a formula which typically requires that the paying parent pay between 14 percent of their adjusted gross income for one child, and up to 26 percent of their adjusted gross income for six or more children.
When making a determination of child support, the judge will consider salaries, bonuses, commissions, annuities, pensions, disability payments and workers’ compensation payments as far as income is concerned. The court will then take into consideration whether the child or children have any financial resources, the financial resources of the other parent, the ages of the child or children, the number of children who reside with the non-custodial parent (children from another marriage), child support obligations for other children and the custody arrangement in place.
The paying parent may also be ordered to add the child to his or her health, life and dental insurance plans as well as to contribute to educational and medical expenses as they arise.
The state of Mississippi does not recognize legal separation, so when spouses decide they no longer wish to live together they must either file for divorce, or for Separate Maintenance. If Separate Maintenance is filed for, the court will determine child support, child custody, insurance, debts, the use of the marital home and vehicles and could order a Separate Maintenance Entitlement — financial support to one spouse prior to a divorce.
In order for a spouse to receive Separate Maintenance, he or she cannot be the cause of the disintegration of the marriage. Keep in mind, however, that a Separate Maintenance action does not terminate the marriage. The Separate Maintenance order will remain in effect indefinitely unless terminated through divorce, an application of dismissal, or should the spouses cohabit.
Although your divorce decree is “final,” there are elements which can be modified through a court order if your circumstances or those of your spouse have changed significantly. If both you and your spouse agree on the modification in question, the court is likely to incorporate that agreement into your divorce degree. If there is no agreement, you must show cause as to why you want the modification.
Modifications are usually over child support, custody or spousal support. As an example, suppose you are the parent paying child support and you lose your job. This is considered a significant change in circumstances however you will have to show the court that you are actively searching for another job.
Or, perhaps you receive a promotion which comes with a sizeable raise. Your ex may petition the court to reduce your spousal support based on that promotion. In the case of child custody, as one example, perhaps your ex has visitation every weekend, yet for the past six weeks in a row he or she has failed to show up to pick up the children. You might want to petition the court to decrease the visitation to once every two months based on this history.
As you can see, a Mississippi divorce comes with many challenges, however your Mississippi divorce attorney can help you navigate the waters and come out on the other side ready to start a new chapter in your life.
MS Code: Search under Title 93. Domestic Relations for specific statutes