Divorce is an extremely personal and difficult decision that a spouse must make if they conclude that their marriage is no longer fulfilling. Many things must be considered, such as the division of assets, debts, and the custody of any shared children. In the midst of this emotional tumult, each spouse must navigate the jungle of Mississippi divorce and child custody law. The legal jargon can be confusing and difficult to understand; untangling and interpreting state law is often the last thing anyone wants to deal with in the middle of such a naturally grueling experience. It is already hard enough to cope with the end of a marriage and the prospect of uprooting the routine of your family's life.
Each spouse in a Mississippi divorce is advised to retain a skilled legal representative. A Mississippi divorce attorney will be able to shoulder much of the burden, make sense of the legal minutia, advise their client on the best course of action and answer all of their questions throughout the divorce and child custody proceedings, if applicable. The importance of securing an excellent Mississippi family law attorney cannot be stressed enough.
The prospect of a courtroom can be daunting for many. If you and your spouse are on poor terms, confronting them in a courtroom can be equally troubling. You may fear you will be cheated out of shared assets or time with your child if you are not adequately informed of what is expected of you in court. A knowledgeable divorce attorney by your side can mitigate all of these worries.
Whether you and your spouse are considering divorce or a fair custody agreement, family law attorney William Wayne Housley is ready to put his two decades of experience to work for you.
Mississippi Divorce: An Overview
Almost every aspect of divorce in Mississippi is governed by state laws, which dictate how the process works, its various requirements, stipulations and the rights of each spouse. Although your attorney will gladly explain any parts of the process you do not feel clear on, it is useful to arm yourself with knowledge of the process while you consider filing. Any questions about your legal rights in a Mississippi divorce should be directed at an experienced Mississippi divorce attorney.
There is a residency requirement to initiate a divorce in Mississippi. If either you or your spouse has resided in the state for at least six months you meet the residency requirement. If you and your spouse currently reside in different counties, the divorce can be initiated in either county. However, if one spouse initiates the divorce and alleges fault against another spouse who does not currently reside in Mississippi, the case must be filed in the county in which the initiator lives. Mississippi law does not require that spouses be legally separated before they file for divorce. You can file at any time, so long as you meet the residency requirement. In certain other states, this is not the case - the spouses must be legally separated for a set amount of time in order to file for divorce.
Grounds for Divorce
A spouse need not point to any specific misdeed of the other spouse in order to file for divorce. Mississippi does recognize several kinds of grounds for divorce, but grounds are not necessary to file. As a no-fault divorce state, Mississippi allows a spouse to file for irreconcilable differences, in which neither spouse is to blame for the divorce, at least where the state is concerned. "Irreconcilable differences" imply that the spouses no longer get along and the marriage is irretrievably broken. Mississippi recognizes the following grounds for divorce:
- Natural impotency.
- Adultery, unless it should appear that it was committed by collusion of the parties for the purpose of procuring a divorce, or unless the parties cohabited after a knowledge by complainant of the adultery.
- Being sentenced to any penitentiary, and not pardoned before being sent there.
- Willful, continued and obstinate desertion for the space of one (1) year.
- Habitual drunkenness.
- Habitual and excessive use of opium, morphine or other like drug.
- Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment.
- Mental illness or mental retardation at the time of marriage, if the party complaining did not know of that infirmity.
- Marriage to some other person at the time of the pretended marriage between the parties.
- Pregnancy of the wife by another person at the time of the marriage, if the husband did not know of the pregnancy.
- Either party may have a divorce if they are related to each other within the degrees of kindred between whom marriage is prohibited by law.
- Incurable mental illness.
Cost of Divorce
There are various costs and fees associated with divorce in Mississippi, including but not limited to the cost of filing, legal document delivery fees, publication of divorce complaint if the spouse cannot be located, attorney fees, and expert fees where applicable (custody experts, tax experts). The cost of legal experts will vary, depending on their experience and the time needed to resolve your case.
Monetary costs aside, what you really stand to spend on a divorce is time. There is a 60 day waiting period between when a divorce is filed and when a divorce may be granted. This waiting period is not imposed with the hope that the spouses will resolve their differences, but to give them time to sort through the various aspects of their divorce and come to an agreement. Depending on the disposition of each spouse, they may be able to resolve all aspects of their divorce in this 60 day waiting period with the aid of their attorneys. Oftentimes, this is not the case. It is possible that certain aspects will be contested, such as the equitable division of property and child custody. These issues may have to be litigated by your divorce attorney and presented before a judge. This process could drag on for months if your spouse is inflexible in their demands and you cannot reach an agreement.
Division of Assets
In a divorce, all property, retirement accounts, and other various assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage will be equitably divided between the two spouses. Equitable does not mean "equal" in a literal sense, because it is difficult to make an exact and equal split when dividing assets. For example, if a couple owns two homes and one car, one spouse may be awarded the more valuable house while the other could be awarded the less valuable home and the car. It is not possible to make an exact and equal division, so the court opts with an option that seems fair. The court will factor in the contributions of each spouse during the marriage, financially or otherwise, as well as the length of the marriage. If either spouse began a retirement account during the marriage, it will be divided equitably between the two. By its very nature, a retirement account cannot be immediately cashed out or divided at the time of the divorce (in most cases). A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) may be required to ensure each spouse gets their fair share.
Alimony may be permanently or temporarily awarded to the more financially needy spouse. When determining alimony, a judge factors in the income, age, debt, standard of living and custody arrangement of each spouse. Temporary alimony may be granted while the divorce is still being settled.
In every divorce, the couple has the option to decide on many of the aspects of divorce outside of court. The more they can agree upon by consulting with each other and their respective attorneys, without the intervention of a judge, the better.
Child Custody in Mississippi
Mississippi has established guidelines which dictate how much child support a parent will receive. The child support amount is exclusively determined by the parent's gross income and number of children. The guidelines are as follows:
|Number of Children Due Support||Percentage of Adjusted Gross Income|
|5 or more||26%|
Most states end child support when the child turns 18, but Mississippi requires child support to be paid until the child becomes automatically emancipated at the age of 21. If, however, the child joins the military on a full time basis, marries or is incarcerated for at least 2 years, child support can be discontinued. If the child moves out of the custodial parent's home, discontinues full time enrollment in school at the age of 18, or seeks out independent living arrangements, child support can likewise be discontinued.
Other Family Law Topics in Mississippi
Family law also encompasses prenuptial agreements, paternity, adoption, reproductive rights, surrogacy, domestic violence, visitation and related legislative areas.