In Mississippi, other than the no-fault divorce, which is irreconcilable differences, there are 12 divorce grounds. Now, some could argue there are 13 divorce grounds because they added a ground just last year. It remains questionably necessary. Desertion is a ground, and that’s when a spouse willfully abandons the marriage for at least one year without consent, just-cause or excuse, and they have no intention to return. The significant thing about desertion is that the innocent party must be willing to go to court ready to accept the person back with open arms. If they cannot say that, you do not have grounds for desertion. Natural impotence, sanity, idiocy, or pregnancy by another person at the time of the marriage are grounds for divorce in Mississippi. Still, the innocent spouse must not have known of the condition before the marriage.
So, if the person has a severe mental problem, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and they have issues of rage, or they don’t take their medication like they’re supposed to, the innocent spouse would have to enter the marriage unknowing of the issues. Adultery is also, of course, a ground. Habitual drunkenness, chronic and excessive drug use or excessive use of opium-like products are also grounds for divorce.
You have to have clear and convincing evidence for habitual drunkenness and habitual and excessive drug use regarding the conduct. You must show that their behavior harms the marriage, which renders that individual reckless, unfit, and unable to perform marital duties and responsibilities. Another ground is habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. This is the most common fault-ground used. Habitual cruel and inhumane treatment encompasses conduct that endangers the innocent spouse’s life, limb, or health or apprehension of such danger. Now, it has been added that you can do habitual cruel and inhuman treatment regarding domestic violence. Suppose you have proof that you’ve had to call the police. You have police reports or protection from abuse orders from the court, which can be used in evidence. You do not have to have a corroborating witness regarding the abuse because that’s one difficulty in abuse cases is usually it’s done behind closed doors.
Since it’s done behind closed doors, you don’t have that corroborating witness who can testify to what’s been occurring to you. So, by adding domestic violence to the statute regarding habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment, it can be easier for someone to prove that they have that issue in their marriage and need a divorce. Bigamy and incest are also grounds for divorce. Again, only the innocent spouse, not the one married to the other person, can use the bigamy grounds, and you have to look at the Mississippi law at the statutes to determine what would qualify for incest. To file for a divorce, an individual must be a resident of the state of Mississippi for six months prior and usually file where the couple resides or separated. So, it’s where they were married, and then they separated and got ready to file for divorce.
What Happens If One Spouse Doesn’t Agree Or Doesn’t Want The Divorce? What Do You Do In Those Contested Situations?
In those situations of one spouse not accepting the divorce, it is a long process. We also must get a rule 81 temporary court date, which is where we go to court the first time, and the judge will establish if there are any emergency issues or establish some temporary relief for one or other of the spouses. The judge will determine who will get custody at that time until the final judgment, who is going to pay child support, how much the support will be, if there’s going to be alimony, who is going to reside in the marital residence, and who is going to take care of specific bills.
Then, the second time we go to court, the court date will be agreed upon between the parties. On that date, we have the final hearing. Getting a Rule 81 date usually takes about a week because you have to contact the court administrators and coordinate your schedule with the judge’s schedule to make sure that you’re on the same page and can be there at the same time. It’s sometimes very hard, especially during COVID. So typically, you could get a court date in one or two months, but now we’re looking at three or four months. After you get your first court date, you go to court, and as I explained, you have your temporary features put into place. Then it could be six months before you have your final hearing where you make discovery, ask the other party questions, have depositions to ascertain all assets, and get all the information you need for court because everything is very open. You don’t hide something and then bring it up at the final hearing. Everything is disclosed beforehand, or you can’t bring it up to the other party.
Everything on the table before going to court. Now, in an irreconcilable difference divorce, which is sometimes referred to as uncontested divorce, is when an individual comes in, they and their spouse have agreed upon everything and how it’s going to be divided, who is going to get custody, how much child support’s going to be, who is going to pay for the health insurance for the children, and everything is previously decided. I would draft the paperwork, and there are four documents, and we could submit those to the court if need be. After 60 days of the petition being on file, we can make an appointment or set a court date with a special master. So in some jurisdictions, like in some counties, you don’t go to a special master, but in other counties such as Harrison County, Hancock County, Stone County, and Jackson County, you go in front of a special master who operates like a referee. They are a hand of the court, you might think of them as a magistrate top judge, and you go in front of them. They review all your paperwork, and they take testimony from the plaintiff. This person is filing for the divorce that it is an irreconcilable differences divorce, that there’s no way they can reconcile. You are usually required to have a jurisdictional witness.
A jurisdictional witness is someone who can testify that you lived in the state of Mississippi and in that county six months before filing the divorce. Not all counties require a jurisdictional witness. For example, Harrison, Hancock, and Stone Counties require it, but Jackson County does not require a jurisdictional witness.
Now, if you’re going to court in Forest County for an uncontested divorce, you’re not required to have a jurisdictional witness, and you go straight to the judge. You do not go to a special master. Now, if you’re a county that requires a special master, they review everything. They then have the judge inspect everything, which they will either approve or deny. As you can see, this is a complex process whether you go uncontested or contested. So, I always advise someone to have an attorney to help them through this process. Many people think they can do this without an attorney, but it is complicated. If you do not get the correct verbiage in your documents, you could be denied your divorce if you don’t say things precisely the way it needs to be displayed or conveyed to the court.
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