Area of Law:
Divorce may be defined as the legal ending of a marriage. Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states like Mississippi generally grant divorces because to force a couple to stay married would be against public policy.
"No-fault" and "fault" are the two types of grounds, or justifications, for divorce in the United States. In some states, no-fault is the only acceptable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds are present within the marriage. The other states, including Mississippi, allow the people involved to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce. Lawyers.com gives a comprehensive overview of divorce law in the state of Mississippi.
The United States first adopted the concept of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all of the states presently allow for some form of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, each other for the divorce. Some examples of the bases for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.”
In Mississippi, the basis for a no-fault divorce is irreconcilable differences. Generally, one spouse cannot stop a no-fault divorce, simply because when one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse does not, this constitutes irreconcilable differences, which justifies a no-fault divorce.
Many states require a "cooling-off" period of separation for a specific length of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can commence. During this time, the couple is required to live separate and apart with the intent that the separation will become permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law. In Mississippi, the final divorce decree is entered immediately, but it may be revoked at any time if the parties jointly request the court to do so.
Some states also allow fault grounds for divorce. Common fault grounds include cruelty, desertion, adultery, prison confinement, habitual intemperance (drunkenness or drug addiction), and impotency. The fault grounds for divorce in Mississippi are impotence, adultery, imprisonment or conviction of a felony, drug or alcohol abuse, insanity for a minimum three-year period, the wife being pregnant by another without the knowledge of the spouse, willful desertion for at least one year, cruel and inhumane treatment, and one spouse’s lack of mental capacity to consent to the divorce.
There are two “defenses,” or denials, that are allowed regarding fault divorces in Mississippi. They are collusion involving adultery and recrimination. These defenses are not used often, perhaps because they require witnesses and additional court time, which is expensive and can drag out the divorce. Another reason may be that even if the defense of recrimination is proven, it is not a complete bar to the action. Mississippi courts will typically still grant the divorce rather than require the couple to remain married when one spouse does not wish to continue the marriage.
The specific grounds required for divorce vary widely across the United States. The American Bar Association provides a variety of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Mississippi, can be found at abanet.org.
*You can also see what a Mississippi Divorce Settlement Agreement looks like on Free Legal Aid.