Uncontested Divorce in Mississippi
Learn about the process of uncontested divorce in Mississippi.
Are you waking up in the middle of the night, worrying about how you're going to pay your divorce lawyer? Breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of going to court and arguing in front of strangers?
Relax. It doesn't have to be that bad. If you and your spouse are on amicable terms and you think you can sit down and reason together, then you may be a candidate for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce will eliminate all the courtroom drama and get you out of a big financial pickle.
This article will explain uncontested divorces in Mississippi. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Mississippi?
In general, an uncontested divorce simply means that both spouses agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:
- child custody and visitation, including where your children will live
- child support, health and dental insurance, and medical expenses for the children
- tax deductions and exemptions
- division of the marital assets and debts
- alimony, and
- any other dispute involving your marriage.
If you or your spouse disagree about any of these items, your divorce will be considered "contested" and it will have to go to trial, although you can still settle your case at any time up to the trial date.
Mississippi has a special kind of uncontested divorce that's designed to be faster, easier, and cheaper than a regular divorce. You can get this kind of divorce regardless of whether you have children. It's called "divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences." To get this kind of divorce, all of the following statements have to be true:
- One of the spouses has lived in Mississippi for six continuous months before the divorce papers are filed.
- Both spouses must agree that they have irreconcilable differences, which simply means they can't get along anymore because the marriage is damaged and can't be saved.
- Both spouses have to work together to write and sign a "joint complaint." A complaint is the document that starts a divorce and provides the court with information about the marriage, children (if any), finances, and wishes of the spouses. But if the spouses don't produce a joint complaint together, then one spouse (the plaintiff) can write a regular complaint and the other spouse (the defendant) is either personally served with the papers or fills out a document giving up the right to be served.
- The spouses should have reached a written total agreement for the custody and support of their children (if any), alimony, and the division of their assets and debts. If they have such an agreement, the court will approve it if it's fair. If the parties have only a partial agreement, they should still write an agreement, but they will have to agree to let the judge make the final decision about the contested issues. Needless to say, it's far more desirable (and speedy) to reach a total agreement yourself, so you don't have to entrust the matter to a court.
Where Do I Go to Get Started?
You’re responsible for knowing where to file your papers. If you file in the wrong place, your case could be tossed out or transferred and you might have to start over. The Mississippi Judicial Branch has a websiteyou can use to identify each judicial district and the circuit courts it comprises.
The entry-level trial courts in Mississippi are the county courts and the chancery courts, which can hear many of the same kinds of cases, including divorces. Divorces on grounds of irreconcilable differences have to be filed in chancery court in the county where either of the spouses live.
An Overview of the Uncontested Divorce Process
The first thing that the co-plaintiffs need to do is locate the correct forms and complete them. Mississippi does not make its divorce forms available electronically. Instead, each court uses its own forms. You'll need to contact the clerk of court at your courthouse to find the correct forms to use.
When you get the forms, take your time and work carefully. Type everything on a computer or print neatly. If you rush through the papers and make mistakes, your divorce could be delayed. Feel free to talk to the court clerks who work in the courthouse, but keep in mind that they can’t give you any legal advice. If you have questions, you’ll either need to research the answers or consult with a family lawyer. You can also try contacting Mississippi Legal Services (legal aid and free divorce information) for additional information.
Since you're trying to obtain a divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences, you'll need to work on the joint complaint with your spouse. You'll also need to draft a written settlement agreement which ideally encompasses a total agreement about all the legal issues. You'll file the petition and agreement at the courthouse. There will be filing fees, but if you can't pay them, just ask the clerk for a fee waiver form. You'll fill it out by furnishing your income information, and if a judge agrees that you're indigent (below the poverty line), you won't have to pay any more fees.
One important thing to note about the process is that there's a 60 day waiting period for divorces on grounds of irreconcilable differences. This means that your documents must be on file at the clerk's office for at least 60 days before a judge can sign the order.
Mississippi Code Annotated, Title 93, Chapter 005 (Divorce)