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.
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.
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.
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.