This article explains the rules and procedures to get divorced in Mississippi.
Grounds for Divorce
In Mississippi, you may file for divorce if you and your spouse agree that there are irreconcilable differences between you and your marriage cannot be saved. You may also file for divorce based on fault grounds, meaning one spouse alleges that the other spouse's actions are responsible for the breakdown of the marriage. Fault grounds include adultery, habitual alcohol or drug use, cruelty, desertion, and bigamy.
(For more detailed information, see Grounds for a Divorce in Mississippi.)
Residency Requirement and Waiting Period
At least one spouse must be a resident of Mississippi for six months before you can file for divorce. If you are filing for divorce based on irreconcilable differences, you may file in the county where either spouse lives, and you must wait at least 60 days before your divorce can be finalized. If you are filing for divorce based on fault, you must file in the county where you live or in the county where your spouse lives if you do not live in Mississippi. In fault divorce, you must attend a court hearing before the court will enter a judgment of divorce.
Mississippi is an equitable distribution state, meaning the court will divide jointly titled property between the spouses in a fair and equitable way. If title to property is in one spouse's name only, that spouse will keep the property even if the property was acquired during marriage. You and your spouse may decide together how to divide property; if you cannot agree, a judge will decide for you. The judge may consider factors such as each spouse's financial and other contributions to the marriage (such as being a homemaker), the value of all marital assets, and potential tax consequences to both spouses. The court's goal is that both spouses will be or become self-sufficient after the divorce.
To read about the rules for dividing marital property in Mississippi, see Mississippi Divorce: Division of Property.)
The court may order one either spouse to pay alimony if it is just and equitable. If necessary, the court will require a bond or other guarantee for the alimony payment.
To find out how alimony is calculated, and who gets it, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Mississippi.
Both parents must financially support their children according to their respective abilities. Child support obligations continue until a child completes high school or turns 19. Mississippi uses state guidelines, based on the parents' income, to determine the amount of child support, and you can estimate your child support obligation here. The judge may also order one parent to provide health insurance or pay for expenses related to the child's special medical or educational needs. The Mississippi Department of Human Services enforced child support obligations.
In Mississippi either parent may be awarded sole physical or legal custody of the minor child, but the presumption is that joint custody is best. The court encourages parents to agree on a custody plan and if they do, the judge will likely adopt the plan as an order. If the parents cannot agree, the court will make a decision based on the child's best interests.
The court may also award custody to grandparents or to a third party if the parents cannot agree or if there is a history of child abuse or domestic violence. Factors the court will take into consideration in deciding custody are the child's age, sex, and health, each parent's employment situation, parenting skills, and willingness to parent, the emotional ties between the child and each parent, and the child's adjustment to home, school, and community. If the child is old enough, the judge may also take the child's wishes into account. To change a custody order, the parents must agree on the change or show that circumstances have changed and a new order is warranted.
To learn more about the best interests standard, and how it applies to child custody cases, see Best Interests: Child Custody in Mississippi.