The divorce process can often seem overwhelming. You have to deal with the emotional and practical changes that come with ending a marriage, while trying to navigate a legal system that's likely unfamiliar to you. And then there are the money worries that are almost always in the picture. But you can find answers to your questions about divorce laws in Mississippi, as well as the help you need.
You can get a divorce in Mississippi as long as either you or your spouse has been a resident in the state for at least six months immediately before you file your initial divorce papers. (Learn more about how to file for divorce in Mississippi.)
Note that gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights in divorce as opposite sex couples. But same-sex divorce sometimes involves extra complications, particularly for couples who lived together before same-sex marriage was legal.
Mississippi allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. When you file for fault-based divorce, you must show that your spouse's misconduct caused the failure of the marriage. The fault-based reasons ("grounds") for divorce in Mississippi include adultery, habitual drunkenness, and habitual cruel and inhuman treatment (including domestic abuse).
The only no-fault ground for divorce in Mississippi is "irreconcilable differences," which basically means you and your spouse can no longer get along, and there's no reasonable prospect of that changing.
To get a divorce based on irreconcilable differences, both of the following must be true:
(Miss. Code § 93-5-2 (2022).)
When you file your divorce complaint, you'll need to pay a filing fee. As of August 2022, the filing fee for divorce in Mississippi was $148 for an uncontested divorce, and $158 for a contested one. But that's always subject to change, so check with the court clerk to confirm the current amount.
If you can't afford to pay the fee, you can request a waiver by filing a "Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis" and a "Pauper's Affidavit." You should be able to get these forms from the court clerk's office, or you can find them online (more about online help below).
Beyond the filing fee, the cost of divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, especially:
If you're proceeding on fault-based grounds, there's no mandatory waiting period in Mississippi to get your divorce. But alleging fault can actually prolong your divorce, because a spouse is more likely to fight the accusation of wrongdoing.
When you're filing on the basis of irreconcilable differences, you'll have to wait at least 60 days from the date the complaint was filed to get divorced. If you've agreed with your spouse about all the issues in your divorce (more on that below), you most likely will be able to get your final divorce judgment without having to go to court for a final hearing. That could save time if court backlogs mean you'll have to wait a while for a hearing date.
As with cost, the actual amount of time your divorce will take depends on the circumstances in your case. If your divorce is contested, you'll have to go through a number of legal steps that can add several months to the process. And if you and your spouse aren't able to reach a settlement agreement at some point (more on that below), going to trial will require even more time—often more than a year.
Divorce courts in Mississippi distribute a couple's marital assets based on the theory of "equitable distribution." This means judges will attempt to divide the property in a manner that's fair to both spouses, under guidelines set out by Mississippi courts. (Ferguson v. Ferguson, 639 So.2d 921 (Miss. Sup. Ct. 1994).)
When divorcing couples are fighting about property, the disputes often focus on which assets are marital property and which are owned separately by each spouse.
It's usually a fairly straightforward task to assign a value to each asset, although you might need to get an appraisal if you own a house with your spouse. But some types of property can be more difficult to divide. You'll often see this with a family-owned business, where you may need the input of a forensic accountant. Another example is splitting retirement accounts , which usually requires hiring an expert.
All decisions about the legal and physical custody of children in any Mississippi divorce must be based on what would be in the children's best interests. Judges will consider several factors when they're deciding what would be best for a child, including the parents' age and physical and mental health, the parents' moral fitness, and the custody preferences of children who are at least 12 years old. (Learn more about custody decisions in Mississippi.)
Like all states in the U.S., Mississippi has guidelines that include detailed rules for deciding who must pay child support and how much those payments should be. Learn how child support is calculated in Mississippi, including when support amounts may depart from the guidelines.
Before judges will order a spouse to pay alimony in Mississippi, they must consider a long list of factors, such as the length of the marriage, a spouse's ability to pay, and the spouses' physical and mental health.
Temporary alimony is available while the divorce is in progress, if the judge believes it's warranted.
Yes, you can agree with your spouse about how to handle the issues in your divorce at any point during the process, from before you've filed the divorce papers right up to just before a trial. In fact, courts strongly encourage settlement.
When you've reached a divorce settlement agreement by the time you file your initial divorce papers, the court will consider your case to be uncontested. In that scenario, you can get your divorce fairly quickly after the end of the 60-day waiting period for no-fault divorces.
If you aren't able to agree with your spouse about one or more of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the disputes for you. Any time you need a trial, your divorce will take longer and cost more. So if at all possible, it's in your best interest to do everything you can to come to a settlement agreement that's fair to both you and your spouse.
If you want to get an annulment, you'll need to convince a judge that you meet one of the limited grounds for voiding your marriage.
Learn more about annulment in Mississippi, including the allowable reasons, the legal process, and the effects of nullifying a marriage.
You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Mississippi.
Here are some other resources: