How to File for Divorce In Mississippi

REQUIREMENTS TO FILE FOR DIVORCE

  • Mississippi requires that you file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse reside, or in the county you lived when the two of you separated.
  • You or your spouse must have resided in the county for six months prior to filing.
  • Mississippi is a no-fault state, so you may obtain a divorce based on irreconcilable differences.
  • Mississippi also allows you to file for divorce on the following grounds:
    • impotence
    • adultery
    • imprisonment
    • desertion for at least one year
    • habitual substance abuse
    • cruelty
    • insanity at the time of marriage or for at least three years
    • one spouse still married at the time of marriage
    • wife carrying a child of another man at the time of marriage (without husband’s knowledge)
    • spouses are too closely related.

HELPFUL TIPS!

  • Filing for divorce in Mississippi can be difficult without legal guidance but using a service like Mydivorcepapers.com can simplify the process by walking you through each divorce form. At only $159, they can save you thousands of dollars in legal fees.
  • If you need additional legal advice regarding the divorce procedure in Mississippi, you can find free legal assistance at Avvo.com.
  • There is a minimum waiting period of 60 days to finalize a no-fault divorce, but most divorces require considerably more time to progress through the system.
  • You should file the Complaint for Divorce at the clerk’s office of your local chancery court along with supporting documents and filing fee. 

Grounds for Divorce in Mississippi

  • Mississippi will grant a divorce without considering fault by a spouse, as long as both spouses agree to it. You and your spouse must file a Joint Complaint for Divorce.
  • If you would like to attribute fault, you must prove one or more of the following legal grounds:
    • impotence
    • adultery
    • imprisonment
    • desertion for at least one year
    • habitual substance abuse
    • cruelty
    • insanity at the time of marriage or for at least three years
    • one spouse still married at the time of marriage
    • wife carrying a child of another man at the time of marriage (without husband’s knowledge)
    • spouses are too closely related.
  • You or your spouse must have resided in the state of Mississippi and the county where you file for at least six months.

STEP 1:
INITIATING YOUR DIVORCE

To begin the process for divorce in Mississippi you must file a Complaint for Divorce with the Clerk’s Office of the chancery court where you or your spouse reside. You may also need to file one or more of the following forms along with the Complaint depending upon the type of divorce:

  • Verification
  • Marital Settlement Agreement
  • Affidavit Regarding the Children
  • Financial Disclosure Statements
  • Request for Hearing
  • Notice of Hearing
  • Decree of Divorce (unsigned)

If you and your spouse wish to proceed with an uncontested divorce, you may create a Marital Settlement Agreement that details how to allocate property, child custody and visitation right, and spousal support. If you and your spouse are in agreement about the terms of the marital dissolution, then there is often no need for a court hearing unless children are involved. If you still have unresolved issues the judge may order a temporary hearing to identify these issues before proceeding to a trial.

STEP 2:
LEGALLY NOTIFYING YOUR SPOUSE

Divorce is, in actuality, a lawsuit between you and your spouse. As such, you must fulfill certain legal requirements, including notification of your spouse that a legal action is being taken against them. During the divorce process, this notification is called Service of Process and involves delivering copies of the Complaint for Divorce and the appropriate supporting documents to your spouse within a legally defined period of time.

You may fulfill this Mississippi legal requirement in one of the following ways:

  • In person— Mississippi allows anyone who is not a minor nor a party to the lawsuit to serve the divorce papers in person. Your spouse must sign the Acknowledgment Receipt which must then be filed with the court.  If your spouse does not accept the notice, you may use the sheriff to serve notice in person.
  • By mail—You may complete Service of Process by sending the papers via mail, but your spouse must sign the return receipt and return it to you so that it may be filed with the court.
  • By publication—If you are unable to locate your spouse, you may petition the court to serve notice by publication. If the court approves, then you must post notice of the divorce in a county newspaper for at least three weeks. Thirty days after the initial publication, you will have officially completed the process service requirement.

Once Service of Process has been completed, the court will decide how long your spouse has to respond to the petition or lose the right to be heard in court.

Default

A failure to respond to the Complaint for Divorce may force the judge to assume that the respondent is waiving their right to be heard. The court will consider the respondent in default and probably grant the plaintiff all or almost all that they are seeking in the Complaint for Divorce.

Uncontested

If your spouse does not wish to contest the divorce, you and your spouse must file a Joint Complaint for Divorce with the court; in the case of a joint filing, there is no requirement for Service of Process. Alternatively, if a Complaint is served, the respondent must submit a written Waiver of Process allowing the divorce to proceed without dispute.

Contested

If your spouse files an Answer in response to the Complaint for Divorce that denies some or all of the allegations, then the judge will order a trial. There may be several hearings and legal proceedings that fulfill various legal requirements, so you may need an attorney to offer legal counsel.  There may be evidence requests by both parties, witness interviews, and negotiations that could prove costly to you personally and financially.

STEP 3:
CONTESTED OR UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?

Contested Divorce (High Cost)

If you and your spouse disagree on issues related to the divorce, you will probably have to endure a long and costly legal process that will include a jury or bench trial. Because there are high costs related to a trial including attorney fees, you should be prepared for an expensive and time-consuming process.  Keep in mind the following about a contested divorce:

  • Attorneys may help the divorce proceed more expeditiously by providing critical legal expertise. This knowledge of court procedures should help you reach a more favorable outcome after the trial, although that is not guaranteed.
  • Your lawyer may engage in discovery, an investigation about claims made by you and your spouse, or attempt negotiate a settlement with your spouse’s legal team. This process could drag on for weeks or months with no assurance of positive results.
  • However, if you have a large estate or many complicated issues to resolve, an attorney may be quite beneficial.
  • Because most divorce lawyers charge an hourly rate in a contested divorce you may expect to pay large legal fees if you resort to legal representation.

Uncontested Divorce (Low Cost)

In Mississippi, if you and your spouse agree on issues including property division, child custody, and alimony, you may be able to speed up the divorce process.  An uncontested divorce in Mississippi must occur on the basis of no fault by either spouse; otherwise, a party would have to prove that the other party had acted improperly.

  • You and your spouse file a Joint Complaint of Divorce; or one spouse has filed a Complaint and served the other spouse who has signed the Marital Settlement Agreement.
  • You and your spouse must agree on property division, a division of debt, spousal support and child custody.
  • There is no need for a trial nor, in most cases, a hearing, but the judge may order you to appear at a short hearing if child custody and visitation issues need to be verified.
  • Because there are no ongoing disputes, there may be no need for legal representation. You can typically complete this simplified process on your own, saving you time and money.
  • If the judicial caseload allows, you may be able to complete an uncontested divorce in Mississippi in as little as 60 days.

STEP 4:
COST OF A DIVORCE

Self-Representation (Lowest Cost)

The best way to save time and money is to represent yourself in the divorce proceedings. While you may be able to represent yourself in a contested divorce, that is not recommended unless you are a legal professional.  Instead, you should try to maintain an amicable relationship with your spouse so that you can produce a Marital Settlement Agreement and represent yourself in an expedited divorce. By filing a Joint Complaint of Divorce, you can avoid unnecessary expenses and hassles. MyDivorcePapers.com can help you with the forms necessary to complete this process.

Mediation (Medium Cost)

Although Mississippi courts do not use mediation services to ameliorate marital conflicts, couples may use them independently of the courts. Mediators are conflict resolution experts that use non-legal processes to hammer out an acceptable agreement (Learn more about the benefits of mediators).  It may help shorten the divorce process, eliminate the need for a trial or make divorce unnecessary. On average, mediation is 20-50 percent cheaper than a traditional divorce.

Divorce Trial (Highest Cost)

If you and your spouse continue to have conflicts, the judge will schedule a trial that will serve as the forum to present arguments that support your claims. If you proceed to a trial, attorneys with trial experience should do most of the arguing and present of evidence.  In addition to extensive legal fees paid to the attorneys, there are also many court costs involved in a trial and pre-trial proceedings.

STEP 5:
PROPERTY DIVISION, CHILD CUSTODY AND SPOUSAL SUPPORT

Most divorcing couples that can’t reach an agreement usually argue about property division, alimony or child custody. If you are filing for divorce in Mississippi, you should be aware of how courts often adjudicate these issues.

Property Distribution

Property distribution is usually one of the most contentious issues in any divorce. Mississippi courts rely on the principle of equitable distribution in which assets should be allocated fairly although not necessarily in equal measure. Property division is governed by many factors including:

  • the contribution of each spouse to the marital estate
  • any dissipation of marital property
  • market value and sentimental value of the property
  • value of each spouse’s separate assets
  • any tax liabilities or other economic consequences of the property division;
  • the impact upon the need for alimony
  • each spouse’s financial security

Child Custody

As in almost all U.S. states, Mississippi bases child custody on the best interests of the child. Mississippi recognizes legal custody as the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare and physical custody as the housing and care of the child. Mississippi courts will take into consideration all of the following criteria before making any custody determination:

  • the child’s age, health, and gender
  • the continuity of care
  • parenting skills and capacity to provide primary child care
  • each parent’s employment
  • each parent’s age and health
  • emotional relationship between the parent and child
  • the moral fitness of the parents
  • the child’s relationship to home, school, and community
  • the child’s preference if the child is at least 12 years old
  • the stability of parent’s home environment
  • history of domestic violence

Spousal Support

Mississippi courts will typically award one spouse alimony or spousal maintenance if there is a financial need. Alimony is available as periodic, lump sum or rehabilitative. Periodic is typically monthly payments for a given period of time, while a lump sum involves a single payment. Rehabilitative alimony is only for a period long enough to allow the recipient spouse to obtain skills to financially support themselves. The court will consider the following when awarding alimony:

  • each spouse’s income and liabilities
  • each spouse’s age and health
  • each spouse’s needs, assets, and debts
  • presence of minor children in the home
  • the standard of living during the marriage
  • any tax consequences related to alimony
  • any fault by either spouse
  • wasteful dissipation of assets by either spouse.

STEP 6:
FINALIZING YOUR MISSISSIPPI DIVORCE

If you and your spouse filed a Joint Complaint of Divorce and you submitted a Marital Settlement Agreement to the court, then you may be able to avoid a court hearing unless you have minor children.  In that case, the judge may require a short hearing attended by both parents to discuss details of child custody before issuing the final decree.

If you and your spouse continue to disagree on key issues, the judge will schedule a trial where both parties may argue their claims.  Following the trial, the judge will issue a judgment and a final decree of divorce.

 

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