Monday, March 17, 2008

Mississippi Divorce Laws

Mississippi Divorce Laws

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Mississippi
One of the spouses must have been a resident for at least 6 months and not have secured residency for the purpose of obtaining a divorce. A member of the armed services and his or her spouse are considered residents if stationed in Mississippi. A divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences should be filed for in:

1. The county where either spouse resides, if both spouses are residents of Mississippi
2. The county where 1 spouse resides if the other spouse is a non-resident of Mississippi

A divorce sought on fault-based grounds should be filed for in:

1. The county where the defendant resides if he or she is a resident of Mississippi
2. The county where the plaintiff resides if the defendant is a non-resident of Mississippi
3. The county where the spouses last lived prior to separating, if the defendant is still a resident of Mississippi

[Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapters 5-5 and 5-11].

Legal Grounds for Divorce in Mississippi

1. No Fault Divorce: Irreconcilable differences. See also below under Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures.
[Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapters 5-1, 5-2, and 5-7].
2. General Divorce:
1. Impotence
2. Adultery
3. Imprisonment
4. Alcoholism or drug addiction
5. Confinement for incurable insanity for at least 3 years before the divorce is filed
6. Wife is pregnant by another at the time of marriage without husband's knowledge
7. Willful desertion for at least 1 year
8. Cruel and inhuman treatment
9. Spouse lacked mental capacity to consent
10. Incest
In addition, an affidavit must be filed stating that there is no collusion between the spouses.
[Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapters 5-1 and 5-7].

Legal Separation in Mississippi
There are no provisions in Mississippi for legal separation.

Simplified/Special Divorce Procedures in Mississippi

A no-fault divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences will be granted if:

1. A joint bill of complaint for divorce is filed by both the husband and wife
2. A bill of complaint has been filed and:
1. The defendant has entered an appearance by written waiver of process
2. has been personally served with the divorce papers

In addition, if there is a written agreement between the spouses for the care and custody of any children and for the division of all property, the court may incorporate such an agreement into the divorce judgment. If the spouses cannot agree on the terms of an agreement, they must consent to the divorce in writing and consent to allow the court to decide all contested issues. There is a 60-day waiting period after filing before a hearing may be scheduled. A bill filed meeting these qualifications will be taken as proved and no testimony or proof will be required at the hearing. However, if the defendant denies that there are irreconcilable differences, the divorce may not be granted on these grounds.
[Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapter 5-2].

Divorce Mediation or Counseling Requirements
There is no legal provision in Mississippi for mediation.

Divorce Property Distribution
Mississippi is a "title" state. Each spouse retains his or her property for which they have title. There are no statutory provisions in Mississippi for considerations regarding property division. However, Mississippi has judicially adopted the "equitable division" systems of property division. Recent court decisions have allowed for a wife's contributions to the acquisition of assets to provide the court with authority to divide any jointly accumulated assets on an "equitable" basis. A 1994 case (Ferguson v. Ferguson) spelled out a set of factors for the equitable division of marital property:

1. A spouse's substantial contribution to the accumulation of property
2. The degree to which a spouse has previously expended or disposed of any marital property
3. The market and emotional value of the property in question
4. The value of any non-marital or separate property
5. The tax consequences of the division of property
6. The extent to which property division may eliminate the need for alimony or any other future friction between the parties
7. The needs of the party, considering income, assets, and earning capacity
8. Any other equitable factors

[Mississippi Case Law].

Alimony and Spousal Support
Either spouse may be awarded maintenance if it is equitable and just. There are no other factors for consideration specified in the statute. However, a 1996 case (Parsons v. Parsons) spelled out a set of factors for consideration:

1. The spouses' income and expenses
2. The spouses' health and earnings
3. The spouses' needs, obligations, and assets
4. The presence of any children
5. The spouses' ages
6. The standard of living during the marriage
7. Any tax consequences
8. Any marital fault
9. Any wasteful dissipation of assets
10. Any other just and equitable factors

[Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapter 5-23 and Mississippi Case Law].

Spouse's Name After Divorce
Either spouse may petition the court for a name change.
[Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapter 17-1].

Child Custody After Divorce
Joint or sole child custody is awarded based on the best interests of the child. There are no specific factors for consideration in the statute. The court may award:

1. Joint physical and legal custody to 1 or both parents
2. Physical custody to both parents and legal custody to 1 parent
3. Legal custody to both parents and physical custody to 1 parent
4. Custody to a third party if the parents have abandoned the child or are unfit

If irreconcilable differences are the grounds for divorce, joint custody may be awarded if both parents apply for joint custody. If both parents apply for joint custody, there is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child. Otherwise, either parent may apply for joint custody. If both parents are fit and the child is 12 or older, the child may choose the parent he or she wishes to live with. If child abuse is alleged by either parent, the court shall order an investigation by the Mississippi Department of Public Welfare.
[Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapters 5-23, 5-24, and 11-65].

Child Support After Divorce
Child support may be ordered as the court finds just and equitable. Where both parents have income or estates, each parent may be ordered to provide support in proportion to his or her relative financial ability. A parent may be required to provide health insurance coverage for the child, if such insurance coverage is available at a reasonable cost through an employer or organization. A bond or sureties may be required to guarantee payments. There are specific child support guidelines contained in the statute.
[Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapters 5-23 and 11-65 and Section 99, Chapter 19-101].

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