If you have decided you want to file for divorce in the State of Mississippi, but are unsure where to start, this article will guide you through the process.
You should always check with the county where you intend to file to find out if they have additional requirements beyond what is listed below. Also, if you have specific questions about your case, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for advice.
Preparing Your Forms
First, make sure you are filing your forms in the correct county. In Mississippi, if your spouse lives in the state, you have to file the complaint in either your spouse’s county, or the county where you lived when you and your spouse separated. If your spouse lives out of state, you have to file in the county where you currently live. If you and your spouse live in separate counties, and you are filing for divorce based on irreconcilable differences (explained below), you can file in the county of either spouse.
Either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the county where you are filing for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
The first form to complete when filing for divorce is the “Complaint for Divorce.” The spouse filing for divorce is referred to as the “plaintiff,” and the other spouse is the “defendant.”
You should state in your complaint that at least one spouse has been a resident of the state for six months, and you must state a legal ground for divorce. In Mississippi, the court can divorce you based on irreconcilable differences, which is a no-fault divorce. You must wait 60 days after filing to be divorced based on irreconcilable differences. Alternatively, you can file based on one of the following fault grounds:
- one spouse sentenced to prison
- desertion for one year
- habitual alcoholism or drug use
- cruel treatment
- insanity at the time of marriage
- one spouse still married at date of current marriage
- wife pregnant by another man at time of marriage (if husband didn’t know)
- incurable insanity (having been insane at least three years), or
- the spouses are too closely related.
Any other issues you want to have the court address should also be identified in the complaint, such as dividing assets and debts, child custody, child support and alimony. If you and your spouse have agreed on all of these issues, you should do an uncontested divorce; you will need to prepare and sign a settlement agreement and state that all issues raised in your complaint have been resolved.
Filing Your Forms
Filing for divorce means you have given your divorce complaint to the clerk’s office of the chancery court in the county where you are filing. You’ll give a copy of your signed complaint to the clerk and they will give you a copy with a date stamp and notation showing that it has been filed with the court. Be sure to get an extra copy to go to your spouse. Your county may have a domestic relations or family law self-help department to help you if you have questions.
Serving Your Forms
You have to give your spouse a copy of your filed Complaint for Divorce; this is called “serving” your complaint. You have multiple ways to serve your complaint on your spouse.
If your spouse agrees, your spouse or your spouse’s attorney can simply accept service. They will need to sign an acknowledgement that you will return to the court. Your chancery court clerk’s office should have a form your spouse can use to acknowledge receipt of the complaint.
If your spouse does not agree to accept service, you can have your spouse served by the sheriff’s office of the county where your spouse lives. The sheriff will let the court clerk know that your spouse has received the complaint.
You may also hire a process server, who can be anyone over 18 who is not a party to your divorce. Once the server has delivered the complaint to your spouse, he or she must then then return to the court clerk and make a note in your court docket that your spouse has been served.
You can also serve your spouse by mail, so long as you get a return receipt showing that the complaint was delivered. You’ll need to give the return receipt to your court clerk to show that you’ve served your spouse.
If you cannot locate your spouse, you can still serve your spouse by publication. You’ll need to sign an affidavit saying that you can’t find your spouse and state the last place that you knew your spouse lived. Once you’ve done this, the court clerk will hand you a notice and give you a newspaper that runs in the county where you’ll need to have the notice published. You’ll take that notice to the newspaper and have the publisher run it in their paper for three straight weeks; you will have to pay for the publications. 30 days after the first publication, your spouse will be considered served by the court.
Your county may require you to make certain financial disclosures in connection when you file for divorce, depending on your county’s local rules. The types of information you can expect to turn over are as follows:
- tax returns
- bank statements
- credit card statements
- personal financial statements, and
- any other documentation containing financial information that your spouse or the court should know before the divorce.
You can find lots of information on the divorce process and related legal issues in our area on Mississippi Divorce and Family Laws.
For the full text of the law governing filing for divorce in Mississippi, see the Mississippi Code, §93-5-1 through §93-27-402. http://www.mscode.com/free/statutes/93/005/index.htm
A map and contact information for all Mississippi Chancery Court Clerks can be found here: http://courts.ms.gov/trialcourts/chancerycourt/chancerycourt.html
Mississippi legal aid may be able to provide additional assistance in you filing for divorce: http://www.mslegalservices.org/issues/family-and-juvenile/divorce