Many spouses looking to get a divorce are unaware that there are multiple types of divorce and different options available. Spouses often find that the uncontested divorce process is the best solution for them. Instead of battling issues in court in front of a judge, spouses seeking an uncontested divorce simply need to sit down at a table with pen and paper and strike up their own agreement.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Mississippiuncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Mississippi Defined
Like many states, Mississippi has provided a specific procedure for spouses to use to seek an uncontested divorce. Under Mississippi’s no-fault divorce provision, spouses may file for an uncontested divorce by filing a joint divorce complaint. By allowing couples to file jointly, Mississippi allows for the expedited and inexpensive disposal of divorce cases.
Joint divorce filings can save a divorcing couple significant time and money. Divorce litigation can be a lengthy and drawn out process, and it is fortunate that Mississippi provides an easy path for couples who are able to agree on divorce terms.
Requirements for Seeking a Mississippi Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Mississippi, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Mississippidivorce attorney or family lawyer.
First, the couple must satisfy the Mississippi state residence requirement for divorce cases. No party can file for a divorce under Mississippi law unless either spouse has been living within the state for at least six months.1 Additionally, Mississippi will not take hear the divorce complaint if either spouse’s sole reason for moving to Mississippi was to file for divorce.
The next requirement that must be satisfied is proof that the divorce is justified under the law. There are twelve different at-fault grounds for divorce; however, those grounds cannot be the basis of a joint divorce complaint.2 Mississippi’s no-fault divorce ground is for irreconcilable differences, which can be proved by demonstrating that the marriage has broken down and cannot be repaired.3
Filing for a joint divorce under Mississippi law also requires agreement between the spouses. Before filing, the spouses should discuss and reach an agreement on all of the important issues in the divorce. This is normally accomplished through the creation of a legally-binding marital separation agreement, discussed below.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement (also known as a settlement agreement). A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
A complete marital separation agreement will address each of the following issues that arise in the divorce:
- Division of any marital property (such as the marital residence);
- Assignment of the payment of any marital debts;
- Child custody and visitation;
- Child support; and
- Alimony (also known as spousal support).
Under Mississippi law, child support and custody issues and the division of property must be decided prior to the judge granting a divorce (all other issues are waivable).If the spouses are not able to agree on all of the issues above, the divorce case may still proceed as an uncontested divorce action; however, the parties must consent, in writing to judicial modification of their separation agreement. This will allow the judge to make rulings on any issues not fully resolved.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Mississippi
Once you and your spouse have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- If you and your spouse plan to proceed with filing for divorce without the assistance of an attorney, the first step you should take is preparing a separation agreement as described above and filling out the required divorce paperwork, such as the joint complaint for divorce. The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, a governmentally-created body designed to help Mississippi citizens navigate the court system without attorneys, as provided a small packet of free divorce forms on its website.4
- Next, you and your spouse will need to determine which court is proper for the filing of your joint divorce complaint. You will need to file in the chancery court of the county in which either spouse meets the Mississippi divorce residence requirements.
- Once you have completed the required divorce paperwork, file the joint complaint in the appropriate court. Both spouses should then sign written waivers of process, which will negate the need for either spouse to prove the allegations in the joint complaint.
- Wait! Under Mississippi law, an uncontested divorce cannot be heard by a court until sixty days after it has been filed.
- Once the sixty day period has elapsed, the Mississippi court will hear the divorce case and the judge will grant ad divorce to the spouses.
For additional information about divorce in Mississippi and assistance with divorce filings, the State of Mississippi Judiciary Branch’s website recommends contacting the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. The Access to Justice Commission is a court-created entity designed to help provide easier access to and assistance in navigating the Mississippi courts system.5
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-5.
- Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-1.
- Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-2.