When you decide to divorce, you may not know where to start. The legal procedure of divorce can feel confusing and overwhelming, not to mention the emotional aspects of the marriage breakdown.
However, we believe that you can go through this challenging process with minimal stress by being well aware of the main stages of divorce in Mississippi.
In this article, we’ll clarify the peculiarities of the dissolution of marriage in Mississippi, outline the essential steps you need to take and provide helpful tools to facilitate an affordable and quick divorce.
The Divorce Process Explained
Generally, we can define the divorce based on the grounds for divorce (“fault” and “no-fault” divorce) and according to the extent of court intervention regarding making final decisions (contested and uncontested divorce).
As for grounds for divorce, Mississippi Family Law recognizes both fault and no-fault divorce.
Filing for divorce based on fault grounds, the petitioner (the party initiating the case) must prove that the other spouse (the defendant or respondent) committed misconduct.
In Mississippi, fault-based grounds include but are not limited to adultery, desertion, criminal conviction, cruelty and inhuman treatment, and habitual drunkenness. And a no-fault divorce occurs when both spouses agree to divorce based on irreconcilable differences.
Unlike many other states, where any divorce can be contested or uncontested, in Mississippi, the parties have to reach an agreement in advance to apply for divorce based on “irreconcilable differences.” In particular, they must resolve their disputes about child custody and support, property division, spousal support (alimony), and any other terms of their divorce case out of court.
Thus, if the spouses fail to agree, an “irreconcilable differences divorce” cannot be granted, often resulting in a contested, fault-based divorce.
Proceeding for a contested divorce typically involves multiple court hearings until the spouses can settle their differences or the judge decides for them. Therefore, contested divorces take about 12 months and cost more due to legal fees.
In contrast, an uncontested divorce in Mississippi can be finalized without a court hearing. Moreover, getting a divorce based on irreconcilable differences makes the spouses eligible to file the divorce petition jointly and avoid the service of process, saving time.
The length of an uncontested no-fault divorce is defined only by a mandatory 60-day waiting period provided by Mississippi law. After that, the rest is up to the couple and the court’s workload.
However, the main advantage of an “irreconcilable differences divorce” is that it can be arranged with little legal advice or even without an attorney at all, making this option relatively inexpensive.
Pro Se or do-it-yourself divorce means representing yourself in a divorce case without a lawyer. In other words, in a DIY divorce, it’s you who takes responsibility for filing the required court forms and completing all the necessary steps of the process according to all the state’s laws and requirements.
An uncontested no-fault divorce process includes:
- The spouses fill out the divorce papers, including their Settlement Agreement, outlining the terms of their divorce, and sign a Joint Complaint for Divorce with the Chancery Court Clerk’s office.
- When filing the divorce forms, the spouses must file mandatory court filing fees. Thus, the divorce procedure officially starts.
- The waiting period begins. No uncontested divorce can be finalized in Mississippi until 61 days from the filing date.
- The spouses generally won’t need to attend a hearing. Instead, the judge reviews the submitted documents and grants a divorce if everything is completed correctly and the Settlement Agreement is fair.
How to Cut the Cost of Divorce
As seen above, the main challenges spouses face in an uncontested divorce in Mississippi are drafting a reasonable Settlement Agreement and dealing with legal paperwork.
Fortunately, filing for divorce upon a Joint Complaint, the spouses do not necessarily have to retain high-priced attorneys, even if they cannot handle all the issues independently.
Instead, they can resort to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods to reach an agreement. The most common non-adversarial procedures include divorce mediation and counseling, and those who need legal advice on one or some specific issues can use unbundled legal services.
As for paperwork issues, the spouses may use the services of internet divorce companies to prepare all the necessary divorce forms without a hassle.
Divorce Over the Internet
How does online divorce work? Unlike law firms and e-filing providers, web divorce companies neither provide legal advice nor enable filing an application for divorce online. Rather, they help prepare for the filing process.
Online divorce services offer a fast and straightforward solution for completing all the necessary divorce forms from the comfort of your home.
Typically, the user only needs to log into the website and provide their case details by following an online questionnaire.
Based on their answers, the service selects the relevant forms required in a particular divorce case and helps fill them out correctly, considering the state’s laws and court’s rules.
Thus, you do not need to grapple with paperwork by yourself or read through Mississippi Code or Civil Procedure Rules to avoid mistakes in documents and, therefore, delays in your divorce.
The ready-to-file divorce forms are usually available in two business days, along with written instructions on how to submit them to your local court. Besides, the cost of such online divorce services is much lower than lawyers’ flat fees for similar cases.
The first steps when preparing for the dissolution of marriage are crucial as they affect the whole process, including the potential length and cost of divorce. If the spouses are ready to negotiate and avoid litigation, they have more options to plan their time and manage their expenses.