What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Mississippi?
This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a domestic violence protective order.
Under Mississippi law, “abuse” means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between spouses, former spouses, persons living as spouses or who formerly lived as spouses, persons having a child in common, other relatives who live together or formerly lived together or between people who have a current or former dating relationship:
- attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury or serious bodily injury with or without a deadly weapon;
- placing, by physical menace or threat, another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
- criminal sexual conduct committed against a minor;
- statutory rape;
- rape by force or by drugging the victim; and
- sexual battery.1
Note: “Abuse” does not include any act of self-defense.1
1 MS Code § 93-21-3(a)
What types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?
A protective order is a court order that is designed to stop your abuser from hurting you and your family. There are two types of protective orders.
A temporary order is designed to offer you immediate, emergency protection from the abuser. Temporary orders are granted only if you can prove to the judge through your testimony or petition/affidavit that you need one to prevent immediate harm to you or your family. A judge will assume that if you are asking for a temporary order you will also want a permanent order.
A temporary order generally lasts until the court hearing that you must have in order to receive a permanent order. This usually takes place within ten days after the abuser has been served with the temporary order. If you and the abuser have minor children together, a temporary order can only last up to 30 days, maximum. However, if you do not have minor children together, a temporary protective order can be longer than 30 days, up to a maximum of one year.1
A final order can be issued only after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story. It offers longer-term legal protection than the temporary order. A final order can last up until such time that the judge believes is appropriate. The expiration date will be clearly written on the order.2
However, if you are given temporary custody, visitation, or child support in a final protective order, those terms are only effective for 180 days. For a longer-lasting order addressing those issues, you would have to file separate petitions for custody, visitation, or support. If at the end of the 180-day period, neither party has filed a separate petition regarding those issues, the custody, visitation, or support terms will go back to whatever order was in effect regarding those topics when the protective order was granted.3
1 MS Code § 93-21-15(1)(b)
2 MS Code § 93-21-15(2)(b)
3 MS Code § 93-21-15(2)(c)
What protections can I get in a protective order?
A temporary order can:
- order the abuser to stop abusing you, your children, and any person deemed to be incompetent;
- order the abuser to stay away from you and/or your household members and from the home, school, and workplace of you and/or other household members;
- grant you possession of the home and order the abuser to leave the residence (and give you the right to return to the residence if you have left);
- order the abuser not to contact you and/or other household members in person, by phone, email or text; and
- prohibit any mutually owned or leased property between you and the abuser from being transferred or disposed (given away or destroyed), unless it is in the ordinary course of business.1
A permanent order can:
- do all of the things that a temporary order can do (listed above); and
- the following additional things:
- grant you possession of the home and order the abuser to leave the residence (and give you the right to return to the residence if you have left) or, by agreement, allow the abuser to provide you with suitable, alternate housing (when the abuser has a duty to support you or your children, and is the sole owner of the residence or household);
- award temporary custody of or establishing temporary visitation rights for your children;
- order the abuser to pay temporary spousal support or child support if the respondent is legally obligated to support you or your children;
- order the abuser to pay you monetary compensation for losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse, including, but not limited to, medical expenses resulting from such abuse, loss of earnings or support, out-of-pocket losses for injuries sustained, moving expenses, and reasonable attorney’s fees; and
- order counseling or professional medical treatment for the abuser, including counseling or treatment designed to help end his/her abusive behaviors.1
Note: The protective order will have a warning to the abuser that possessing a firearm may be against federal law. (See our Federal Gun Laws pages for more information). However, to try to get local police to enforce the firearm restriction, you can ask the judge to include in the protective order that the abuser has to hand over any firearms in his/her possession to the authorities and forbid him/her from buying firearms.
1 MS Code § 93-21-15(1)(a) & (2)(a)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.