What Are The Grounds For Divorce In Mississippi?

In the state of Mississippi, you and your spouse can file for either a fault divorce or a no-fault divorce. Each option has its own choice of grounds, a requirement for divorce in Mississippi.

Who names the grounds?

The spouse who files for divorce must identify the grounds for the divorce. The legal term grounds means the reason or cause for the request to dissolve the marriage. If you choose to file a no-fault divorce, you only have one option for grounds, but if you choose a fault divorce, you have 11 options. Let’s look at the simplest option, a no-fault divorce, first.

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce in Mississippi

According to the state legal code (Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-2.), in a no-fault divorce in Mississippi, you can only choose irreconcilable differences as grounds. In a no-fault divorce, the two spouses agree to differ. Essentially, they agree mutually that they have problems and share the fault of the marriage failing. They agree that they do not belong being married any longer and they mutually agree they do not want to stay together. When you choose no-fault, irreconcilable differences, you must wait 60 days after filing for divorce to have the court hear the case.

The other spouse (the non-filing spouse) can still contest the divorce. An uncontested divorce means both parties agree to everything. That’s rather rare. You still have to agree to property division, alimony, debt division, and child custody, and child support if applicable. Once you completely agree to the terms, you submit them to the court, which enters a judgment of divorce, including the agreed-upon terms. If you cannot agree, the court decides the issues in a trial. Once the court has decided on the contested issues, it will grant the divorce based on irreconcilable differences. Choosing no-fault, irreconcilable differences reduces the cost of the divorce and the stress of going through a divorce.

Fault Grounds for Divorce in Mississippi

When you approach your spouse about divorce, they may balk at the notion. You cannot choose no-fault, irreconcilable differences if that is the case. You must file for a fault divorce. At this point, the filing spouse must be able to provide one of the 11 grounds options. The options for dissolution of marriage due to marital misconduct include:

  • adultery,
  • bigamy,
  • convicted of a crime and sentenced to serve prison or jail time,
  • natural impotency,
  • wife’s pregnancy by another man without the husband’s knowledge,
  • at least one year of willful and continuous desertion,
  • habitual child or spousal abuse, whether physical, mental or emotional, including incest,
  • habitual, excessive use of illegal drugs, such as opium, meth, cocaine, or morphine,
  • habitual drunkenness/untreated alcoholism,
  • a mentally ill spouse or spouse with an intellectual disability at the time of marriage, who keeps the fact from their spouse,
  • a three-year or longer hospitalization or institutionalization of a spouse due to mental illness. (Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-1.)

In the case of fault divorce, only the injured party can file for divorce. They must state the grounds for divorce and prove them. Typically, this requires witnesses and documentation.

The injuring party cannot use their own wrongdoing as grounds for the dissolution of marriage. That means if you committed adultery, you cannot file for divorce on grounds of adultery. Only the spouse who got cheated on can file for divorce. They would need to prove the grounds based upon witnesses who saw the cheating spouse with the other party and hotel receipts, credit card statements, etc.

No-fault or Fault Grounds?

Ideally, choose a no-fault divorce whenever possible. Not only does it reduce stress, cost less, and move quicker, it avoids swaying the court on alimony decisions. In fault grounds cases, the Mississippi court can take fault under consideration as a factor in determining alimony, also called spousal support. It established this fact in the 1993 case, Armstrong v. Armstrong, 618 So. 2d 1278. Although the law has evolved, the court still will partially base it on punishing the offending spouse. It typically focuses on a spouse’s needs.

A fault divorce can also influence child custody, especially if the reason for the grounds related to morality. The court considers moral violations in the best interests of the child. Those that fall under the fault grounds can also impact child custody. The deciding factor in any custody case is the best interests of the child. So a parent’s moral fitness is something a court can consider, as the Mississippi courts established in the 1983 case Albright v. Albright, 437 So. 2d 1003, 1005.

While adultery alone won’t typically preclude custody, serially adulterous situations that could place the child in a dangerous situation, whether emotionally or physically, could. Matters of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and mental health could negatively influence the court.

Other Situations Cannot Provide Grounds

Each state determines which conditions merit the dissolution of marriage. In the state of Mississippi, only the 12 options discussed above merit a divorce. Other items, such as fiscal mismanagement, do not qualify. If you cannot agree to a no-fault, irreconcilable differences divorce, you must be able to prove that your spouse committed one of the 11 fault conditions.

Finding an Attorney to Help with Divorce Proceedings

When you need Mississippi divorce lawyers, look for experience in family law overall as well as a specialization in divorce. Ringer, Lingold, and Spencer have handled many cases that involved adoptions and child custody, as well as cases that required orders of protection, commonly called restraining orders. Divorce attorneys that specialize in the type of divorce you need can help you obtain a better outcome. If you instead require an annulment, contact a firm specializing in the nullification of marriages. This decree is a higher one than a divorce and requires a stricter set of standards.