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Know the Laws: Mississippi

UPDATED September 27, 2017

Below is basic information about divorce in Mississippi.

back to topWhat are the residency requirements for divorce in Mississippi?

You can file for divorce in Mississippi if you or your spouse are actual residents of Mississippi (which includes being stationed in Mississippi as a member of the armed services) for six months before starting your case.  You and your spouse cannot become residents with the sole purpose of getting a divorce.*

* Miss. Code § 93-5-5

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back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in Mississippi?

Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for divorce.  The judge may grant you a divorce based on irreconcilable differences or if your spouse:

  • is naturally impotent;
  • cheats on you (adultery), unless you and your spouse planned the cheating in order to be eligible for a divorce, or you and your spouse lived together as a married couple after you found out about the cheating;*
  • is sentenced to any state penitentiary (jail/prison) without pardon;**
  • deserts you for one year;
  • is habitually drunk;
  • excessively and habitually uses opium, morphine, or other similar drugs;
  • habitually treats you in a cruel and inhuman way, including domestic abuse; (Note: You can establish domestic abuse through your reliable testimony about the abuser:
    • caused or attempted to cause bodily injury;
    • caused or attempted to cause physical threat to put you in fear of immediate serious bodily harm; or
    • engaged in a pattern of behavior against you of threats or intimidation, emotional or verbal abuse, forced isolation, sexual extortion or sexual abuse, or stalking or aggravated stalking;
  • had a mental illness or intellectual disability at the time of your marriage and you did not know about it at the time;
  • was already married to someone else when you “married” each other;
  • was pregnant by someone else when you got married and you did not know about the pregnancy;
  • is related to you; or
  • is incurably mentally ill.  Note: Your spouse must have been under regular treatment for the illness and confined in an institution for at least three years before filing for divorce, even if s/he was released and then returned back to the institution.Two doctors, including a state superintendent of a state psychiatric hospital or member of the institution where your spouse lives must make affidavits that s/he has an incurable mental illness.*

* Miss. Code § 93-5-1
**Daughdrill v. Daughdrill, 180 Miss. 589 (1938)

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back to topCan I get divorced if my spouse and I don’t meet any of the required grounds?

The judge may also grant you a divorce for “irreconcilable differences.”  To get a divorce because of irreconcilable differences, one of the following must be true:

  1. you and your spouse must file a joint complaint (court document);
  2. the spouse who did not start the case must be personally served with the complaint; or
  3. the spouse who did not start the case must enter his/her appearance with a written waiver of process (document stating that s/he agrees that s/he does not need to be served with the complaint according to the court rules or state laws).*

A judge will wait 60 days after you file your divorce complaint before hearing your case.  If you and your spouse agree to all of the terms of your divorce (custody, child support, property division, etc.), the judge may issue the divorce based on your complaint and without a hearing.  However, if you do not agree, the judge may hold a hearing, hear evidence, and make a decision about the issues on which you disagree.**

A judge will not grant you a divorce based on irreconcilable differences if you and your spouse do not agree that your marriage is beyond repair.  However, if you or your spouse withdraws (takes back) or cancels the denial or contest (with the judge’s permission), the judge can grant a divorce.*** 

* Miss. Code § 93-5-2(1)
** Miss. Code § 93-5-2(3),(4)
*** Miss. Code § 93-5-2(5)

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back to topCan I get alimony?

Unless you and your spouse agree to an amount, the judge has the right to decide whether to award you or your spouse alimony and how much to award.  The judge must make sure that that her/his decisions are just and equitable and must consider your and your spouse’s circumstances.  The judge can change the award as necessary.*

To determine whether granting alimony is appropriate the judge will consider several factors, including:

  • the income and expenses of the parties;
  • the health and earning abilities of the parties;
  • the needs of each party;
  • the debts/responsibilities and assets of each party;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • the presence or absence of minor children in the home;
  • the age of the parties;
  • the standard of living of the parties;
  • the tax consequences of the support decree;
  • fault or misconduct;
  • wasteful drawing down of assets by either party; and
  • any other factor deemed to be fair and equitable.**

* Miss. Code § 93-5-23
** Armstrong v. Armstrong, 618 So.2d 1278 (1993)

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back to topWhat are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps that a person may have to follow to obtain a divorce:

  • First, you or your spouse must meet the residency requirements of the state you want to file in.
  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
  • Third, you must file the appropriate divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse - for the exact rules for serving the papers, contact your local courthouse or an attorney.
  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling her/his side.  In his/her response, the other party may express his/her opinion challenging the divorce, asking that it be granted under different grounds or letting the judge know that s/he agrees to the divorce.  If your spouse contests the divorce, then you may have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out.  Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway.  (Speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers before you can continue with the divorce.)
  • Fifth, if there are property, assets, a pension, debts, or anything else that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, then these issues may have to be dealt with during the divorce or else you may lose your chance to deal with these issues.  The issues may be worked out during settlement negotiations and incorporated into the divorce decree or in a series of court hearings during the divorce.  Custody and child support may also be decided as part of your divorce.

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back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce in Mississippi?

The Mississippi Bar has the following resources:

North Mississippi Legal Rural Services also provides information on divorce, including residency requirements.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites.  We provide these links for your information only.

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