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.
Before filing for divorce in Mississippi, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months. If you meet state residency requirements, then you need to 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 must 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. See Miss. Code. § 93-5-5 (2019).
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." Mississippi courts do not publish divorce forms online, but your local court clerk may have divorce forms specific for your county. Additionally, the Mississippi State Bar hosts regular free family law clinics for low-income individuals. More information is available on the Legal Help Section of the State of Mississippi Judiciary website.
Within your complaint, you'll need to attest that you or your spouse has been a resident of the state for six months, and you'll need to state a ground for divorce. In Mississippi, you can seek a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences. See Miss. Code § 93-5-2 (2019). There's a 60-day waiting period after filing to obtain a divorce based on irreconcilable differences. Alternatively, you can file for divorce based on one of the following fault grounds:
If you and your spouse have agreed on all of these issues, may be able to request 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 for divorce means you have given your divorce complaint to the clerk of the chancery court in the county where you're filing. You'll hand a copy of your signed complaint to the clerk and the clerk will provide you with a date stamped copy and notation showing that the complaint 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.
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 the complaint on your spouse.
Your spouse can simply agree to accept service by signing and returning an acknowledgement form that you will then submit 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 doesn't agree to accept service, you can ask the sheriff's office in the county where your spouse lives. The sheriff will delivery the documents to your ex and let the court clerk know that your spouse has received the complaint.
You may also hire a process server or ask an individual over 18 (who is not a party to your divorce) to deliver the complaint. After serving your spouse with the documents, the process server (or other adult) will complete a service affidavit attesting that your spouse has been served.
If the process server has been unable to serve your spouse, you can ask the court for permission to serve your spouse via certified mail. You'll need to provide the return receipt to your court clerk as proof of service.
If you can't find your spouse, your spouse is actively evading service, or your spouse is in the military, you may need to serve your spouse by alternative means.
One alternative means of service is by publishing notice of your divorce in the newspaper. You need to get court permission in order to use this method. Military divorces have their own specific set of rules governing service.
After you file for divorce, you and your spouse will need to exchange specific financial information. Generally, as part of your financial disclosures, you'll need to submit information and supporting documentation regarding the following:
You must be thorough and accurate in your disclosures. Either spouse's failure to disclose assets could impact a property award or result in fines. In some cases where one spouse has hidden assets, a judge will award the non-disclosed asset to the other spouse.
You can find additional information on the divorce process and related legal issues in our section on Mississippi Divorce and Family Laws.
For low-income Mississippi residents, additional resources and legal assistance may be available through Mississippi Legal Services. You can contact Mississippi Legal Services toll free at 1-800-498-1804 for more information and to see if you qualify.