This is a complete guide to divorce in Mississippi.
In this guide, you’ll get educated on exactly how divorce works in Mississippi .
Specifically, we’ll cover the differences between divorce and legal separation, types of divorce, overview of the process, how much it costs, and a whole lot more.
So if you want to make sure you have a lay of the land (and steer clear of the landmines), we’ve got you covered.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
- The differences between divorce, annulment and legal separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Mississippi?
- What kind of divorce is right for you
- What is the process of filing for divorce in Mississippi?
- Completing proof of service
- Can you file for divorce online?
- Filing for divorce in Mississippi without using a lawyer
- How much will it cost?
- How long does it take?
- Should I retain the services of a certified divorce financial analyst?
- Bifurcation of marital status in Mississippi
- Can I cancel, stop or reverse a divorce in Mississippi?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is proof of divorce?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources for a Better Divorce
The difference between divorce, annulment and legal separation
Married couples can end their marriages by divorce or annulment in Mississippi. Legal separation is also permitted, but a couple will remain married after this action takes place.
Legal separation is much different than a pure physical separation between two people. Legal separation requires a court action to put specific provisions in place, even though a couple will remain married. However, legal separation is not recognized in Mississippi, so spouses must either file for divorce or separate maintenance.
With separate maintenance, the court will decide child custody, insurance issues, debts, and the use of the family home and vehicles. The court may also grant a separate maintenance entitlement which is a form of temporary alimony. Remaining issues regarding children and financial assets are then decided separately.
Annulments are rare, but they are granted in Mississippi. An annulment means a marriage is null and void as if it never happened. This is different from a divorce which simply ends a marriage.
To be granted an annulment in Mississippi, you must meet one of the following conditions that were present when the marriage took place:
- Statutory incest
- Incurable impotence
- Lack of physical capacity to marry
- Insanity at the time of the marriage
- Pregnancy by another without the husband’s knowledge
- Lack of consent due to age
- Failure to comply with the statutory licensing provisions
Divorce is a permanent and legal end to a marriage. All issues are resolved, and each spouse goes their separate way after a final decree is granted by the court.
Related Reading: Should I Get a Divorce?
What are the grounds for divorce in Mississippi?
Mississippi allows for divorce on either a no-fault or fault-based basis. A no-fault divorce merely requires you to state that there are irreconcilable differences. No other explanations are needed. To file a no-fault divorce, both sides must agree to the divorce based on irreconcilable differences. If either spouse does not agree, then divorce must be proved through a fault-based divorce.
If you choose to file a fault-based divorce, you have the burden of proving that the ground you are filing on is appropriate for your divorce. It is generally tied to some form of misconduct.
14 fault-based reasons can include, but are not limited to:
- Domestic violence
- Willful extended separation
- Bigamy, or marriage to someone else at the time of marriage
- Criminal conviction and sentence to any jail time
- Willful continuous desertion for at least one year
- Chronic alcohol or drug abuse
- Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment
- Wife’s pregnancy by another at the time of marriage without the husband’s knowledge
- Hospitalization or institutionalization of a spouse for three years due to insanity.
Only the person that is the victim of the fault-based reason can file for divorce on a fault ground. If you were the perpetrator, then you are not allowed to do so.
What kind of divorce is right for you?
One of the first things you must decide is what kind of divorce you want. There are several possible options in Mississippi.
Determining what kind of divorce you want is critical because it sets the stage for several other decisions and activities you will need to pursue.
The relationship you have with your spouse is a primary consideration. If you can work together and trust each other to come to amicable decisions, you may be able to save a lot of time, money, and grief.
It’s very important to keep in mind that there is no “best option” when it comes to divorce. No divorce is cookie-cutter, so it’s key that you think about your dynamic with your spouse and what your goals are when it comes to your divorce.
Here are the types of divorce:
Do-It-Yourself Divorce: What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
Online Divorce: A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
Litigation: The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes it’s the only viable option, however. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
Mediation: With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Collaborative Divorce: Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions. That’s why a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist.
Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
What is the process of filing for divorce in Mississippi?
The basics of all divorces in Mississippi are pretty much the same no matter what direction and method you choose. Some initial steps need to be handled so that you can move on to the next stage of the process.
Gather important information. When gathering the information you need, it’s very important to be organized and proactive. Remembering this will give you the best chance at achieving the best outcome for your divorce.
Not only will this ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process, but it will also save you time, anxiety, and money (which you’ll want to save for the next parts of your divorce).
Before you jump in to collecting financial information, take the following steps:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
If you’re in the dark about your finances, that’s okay. You and your spouse will be required to complete financial affidavits as part of the divorce process. The goal at this point is simply to begin identifying the puzzle pieces.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short-list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
Complete the initial paperwork. After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue, you need to complete several forms and submit them. Depending on the circumstances of the divorce, some forms may or may not be required.
- Bill of Complaint for Divorce
- Marital Settlement Agreement
- Financial Disclosure Statements
- Affidavit Regarding the Children
- Child Support Computation Worksheet
- Child Support Guidelines
- Acknowledgment, Acceptance of Service and Appearance
- Request for Hearing
- Notice of Hearing
- Decree of Divorce
Do not sign any documents until you are in the presence of a notary. Also, court employees cannot provide legal advice, but they will check to make sure your forms are correctly completed.
File your forms. Completed forms must be filed with the court in the county where you or your spouse have lived for at least six months. You will need to file your divorce complaint and related documents with the clerk’s office of the chancery court.
You must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of your intention to divorce them.
Completing proof of service in Mississippi
After you have filed paperwork in Mississippi, you must legally notify your spouse of your intentions by delivering paperwork to them. You are not allowed to do this on your own.
Instead, a sheriff in the county where the defendant lives can serve process and then file proof of delivery with the court.
It is also possible to serve papers by mailing them first-class with postage prepaid to the defendant. If the sender receives no acknowledgment of service under this rule within 20 days after the date of mailing, service of the summons and complaint can be made in other ways.
When the defendant cannot be found so that proof of service can be completed, with the approval of the court, the defendant can be served by publication.
Under this process, the summons is published in a local newspaper for three consecutive weeks. If there is no newspaper, then the notice can be posted at the county courthouse. After completion of publication, the defendant has 30 days to file a response.
A summons is served on a person outside Mississippi by sending divorce papers to the respondent by certified mail, return receipt requested. The envelope is marked “restricted delivery.”
Service by this method is complete as of the date of delivery. This is evidenced by the return receipt or by the returned envelope marked “Refused.”
Can you file for divorce online in Mississippi?
No, but you can complete much of the paperwork you’ll need to file using online resources. This is a great option for many people who are seeking an uncontested divorce.
Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is: 3 Step Divorce.
3 Step Divorce checks all the boxes that make an online divorce worthwhile.
They aim to make it easy – and they certainly deliver.
From step-by-step instructions to unlimited live support, here are just a few of the reasons why 3 Step is our #1 recommended online divorce resource:
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Monthly payment options as low as $84/mo
- Initial questionnaire takes less than 1 hour
- Library of free tools and resources
- Unlimited access to support agents by phone or email
- Immediate access to completed forms
- Assurance of 100% court-approval (or your money back!)
3 Step Divorce also boasts the highest customer rating in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews).
You can learn more by reading our 3StepDivorce review.
Better yet, you can Start Your 3 Step Divorce NOW (as low as $84/month).
Going this route can save time and money. Online services not only assist with the paperwork but will walk you through the necessary steps to make sure your paperwork is filed correctly with the appropriate court.
Filing for divorce in Mississippi without using a lawyer
It is possible to file for divorce in Mississippi without using a lawyer. Many times, this is done to save money and occurs when you file an uncontested divorce. This means you and your spouse have agreed on all of the material issues in the divorce.
There is no standard form for filing a divorce in Mississippi. Many local courts have developed templates that are used when filing. You can also get help from various services that will also assist you in completing paperwork.
The only other requirement is that you must meet residency requirements. You or your spouse must be a resident Mississippi for at least six months before filing the divorce petition. This will give the court jurisdiction over your divorce.
How much does it cost to get a divorce?
When you get a divorce in Mississippi, you will need to pay filing fees and process of service fees. Filing fees run around $50. This amount will vary slightly from county to county.
You must also legally serve your spouse with forms once they are filed. Fees will vary depending on the method you choose but expect to pay $25 or more. You cannot serve the papers yourself.
If you don’t know where your spouse is, then you can publish the divorce complaint in a local newspaper. The publication fee will run about $65 to meet legal requirements.
If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee, you can request a fee waiver and ask the court for relief.
If you need help resolving your issues, you can retain the services of a mediator or an arbitrator instead of using a family law attorney. Depending on the complexity of your issues, this will generally range between $3,000 and $7,000.
If there are any unresolved issues regarding your divorce, and you need to retain a lawyer, expect to pay legal fees that will range from $200 to $500 per hour. The exact cost is determined by how complicated your case is and how many hours are required to resolve it.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Mississippi?
If spouses can agree to a divorce based on irreconcilable differences, then they need to wait at least 60 days after filing before a court will hear their case. If spouses also agree on things such as child custody, visitation, alimony, a division of assets and other vital issues, the judge will include those terms in the final agreement.
If both spouses agree to divorce based on irreconcilable differences but can’t reach agreement on various issues, then the court will decide those issues as part of a trial. After they are determined, the court will issue a settlement that will include those terms as well. It may take several weeks or months to complete a trial.
Should I retain a certified divorce financial analyst?
Many spouses in Mississippi retain a family law attorney to assist them with all the aspects of their divorce.
But there are times when finances are multi-layered, complicated or deal with a large amount of assets. This creates financial and tax implications that need to be thought out beforehand to avoid a big dollar hit later on.
If this is your case, you should consider working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Bifurcation of marital status
Bifurcation of marital status divides a divorce into two parts. It is not allowed in all states, but it is legal in Mississippi, although it is rare.
The first part satisfies the grounds for the divorce and allows the couple to get divorced, by determining if grounds legally exist. The second part is addressed at a later date and works out all the other issues, such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony. These are generally contentious issues that may have stalled or become significant sticking points keeping the divorce from being finalized.
While bifurcation can move a divorce forward, it can also be more costly. This is because the legal process requires two separate legal actions instead of one, as well as dragging out the process for a much longer time.
Can I cancel, stop or reverse a divorce in Mississippi?
No. If your spouse wants to divorce you in Mississippi, you may be able to delay things for a bit, but ultimately the divorce will happen.
What is a divorce decree?
A divorce decree is known as a Final Judgment of Divorce in Mississippi. It officially terminates a marriage and spells out the detailed rights and responsibilities of each party.
Issues including a division of assets, alimony, child support, and visitation and all other issues that will frame the divorce are legally decided.
What is a divorce certificate?
To show proof that a divorce has been granted, a divorce certificate can be issued. The document has a lot less information on it than what is in a decree. It only states that the divorce took place, along with the specifics of when and where it happened.
To obtain a certified copy of a divorce certificate, you will need to contact the Chancery Clerk’s office in the county where the divorce is recorded.
Changing Your Name
As you prepare your divorce forms, you will be able to choose to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You can choose to receive a separate court order to make your name change official, or you can have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Both of these documents are acceptable for all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
It’s a long process to contact each company and figure out what to send where. To lighten the load, we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to prevent the 10+ hours of paperwork and research that you would have to do by yourself.
Recommended Divorce Resources
There are a lot of divorce resources that make big claims. We’ve tested a bunch of them. Most fall short. A few stand above the rest.
These are the tools and resources we’re excited to share with you because we know they can help you have a better divorce.
If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- Online dating
- And a whole lot more