Are you waking up in the middle of the night, worrying about how you're going to pay your divorce lawyer? Do you break into a cold sweat at the thought of going to court and arguing in front of strangers? You can rest easy that there’s a way to obtain a more peaceful and cheaper divorce – also called an “uncontested divorce.”
This article explains the process for obtaining an uncontested divorce in Mississippi. If you have additional questions after reading this article, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
In Mississippi, an uncontested divorce is referred to as a “quick divorce.” Generally, an uncontested divorce is one where both spouses agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:
If you or your spouse disagree about any of these items, your divorce is “contested" and you’ll have to proceed to trial and let a judge decide all issues in your case. However, couples can reach a divorce settlement agreement on their own or with the help of a mediator at any point up until the trial date.
Mississippi allows couples to file for an uncontested divorce through a process that's designed to be faster, easier, and cheaper than a traditional divorce. Uncontested divorces are available to divorcing couples regardless of whether or not you have children. In Mississippi, an uncontested divorce is sometimes called a "divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences.” To obtain this kind of divorce, all of the following statements must be true:
Although an uncontested divorce isn’t a free divorce, the process is usually simpler and less expensive than a traditional divorce case. Attorneys are rarely involved in an uncontested divorce. Those couples who do hire attorneys in an uncontested divorce usually ask the attorneys to proofread paperwork and draft any settlement agreements.
Spouses seeking an uncontested divorce should have reached a written agreement on custody and child support for the children (if any), alimony, and the division of their assets and debts. A judge will approve a couple’s divorce agreement so long as it’s fair to both spouses and serves the best interests of any minor children. If the spouses only have a partial agreement, they should still write an agreement and submit to the court. A judge will make the final decision about any contested divorce issues. Needless to say, it’s a quicker and cheaper divorce process in Mississippi if you and your spouse are able to resolve all the divorce-related issues in your case. See Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-2- (2020).
Mississippi does not make its divorce forms available electronically. Instead, each court uses its own forms. You can contact your local court clerk to find the correct forms to use. Also, Mississippi Legal Services offers certain divorcee forms and basic divorce information on its website.
Once you have obtained a copy of divorce forms, take your time and complete them carefully. It’s a good idea to type everything on a computer or print neatly. If you rush through the papers and make mistakes, your divorce could be delayed. Although you can reach out to your local court clerk with questions, court clerks can’t offer you legal advice. If you have questions, you’ll either need to research the answers yourself or hire an attorney.
Ideally, you and your spouse would work on a joint complaint for divorce together. You'll also need to draft a written settlement agreement which encompasses a total agreement about all issues in your case. A mediator or attorney can help you draft a divorce settlement agreement if you’re unable to do so on your own.
Once you’re ready to file for divorce, it’s important that you know 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 website lists the various judicial districts and the circuit courts.
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 filed on grounds of irreconcilable differences have to be filed in chancery court in the county where either spouse lives.
Once your paperwork is complete, you’ll need to submit it to your local court and arrange to serve documents on your spouse (if you didn’t file a joint petition). The court clerk should provide you with a case number. Be sure to keep a copy of your filed paperwork and your case number handy. There will be filing fees, but if you can't pay them, you can ask the clerk for a fee waiver form. You’ll need to submit the fee waiver form with your case number and income information. If a judge agrees that you're indigent (below the poverty line), all fees in your case will be waived.
One important thing to note about the uncontested divorce process is that while it’s quick, your divorce won’t be granted immediately. Mississippi law requires divorcing couples to wait at least 60 days from the time of filing until a divorce can be granted based on irreconcilable difference. 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.