Mississippi family law cases represent some of the most emotional situations individuals can find themselves involved in. Mississippi family law cases involve topics such as divorce, child custody, father’s rights, and child support, to name a few. Having an understanding of how the law effects the facts and circumstances surrounding your case is an essential first step to knowing the type of help that you need. For some, an uncontested divorce may be something they decide to take on themselves, for others, issues such as child custody or property division may require Mississippi family law advice from a professional. No matter what your experience is within the court system, rest assured that there are plenty of Mississippi family law lawyers that can help you – and we can put you in touch with an expert lawyer today for free. But it is a good idea to learn the basics so you have an idea what you are in for.
Mississippi Divorce Law
Mississippi divorce law (which can be found within Title 93 of the Mississippi Civil Code here) allows couples to file for divorce based on either fault or no fault grounds. No fault grounds may exist if both you and your spouse can agree before the court that your marriage cannot be repaired because of irreconcilable differences (Mississippi Code Section 93-5-2). This standard is essentially the parties not placing any blame on another person, but stating that the marriage just did not work out and the spouses do not get along anymore. No-fault divorces are the most common by a margin of 90% of all Mississippi divorces. Mississippi no-fault divorces do have some basic requirements, such as residency and waiting period requirements.
A Mississippi fault divorce requires a showing that one of the spouse’s actions are the cause of the end of the marriage. Fault based divorces in Mississippi are much less common than no-fault divorces as they are often difficult to prove with actual evidence and take much longer and are much more expensive to finalize than no-fault divorces. Typical fault grounds that can be alleged include cruelty, desertion, bigamy, adultery or habitual drug/alcohol use.
Residency Rules and Mandatory Waiting Periods in Mississippi
Mississippi statute, found at Title 93 – Domestic Relations Chapter 5 Section 5, states that one of the spouses must be an “actual bona fide resident within this state for six (6) months next preceding the commencement of the suit.” Exceptions exist for members of the armed services stationed either in Mississippi or Mississippi residents that are in the armed services and are stationed elsewhere in the country.
Mississippi also imposes on divorcing couples a mandatory waiting period to obtain a final divorce decree. Found within the Mississippi Civil Code at Title 93 Chapter 5-2(4), the State of Mississippi requires a 60-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. The law specifically states, “Complaints for divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences must have been on file for sixty (60) days before being heard.”
Property Division in Mississippi
Mississippi divorce law dictates that that state will divide marital property based on a formula known as an “equitable distribution of property.” This does not mean that the divorce judge will evenly divide the property and give each spouse 50%. What it means is that a judge will take into account several factors in deciding how much property each spouse should receive when the divorce is finalized. Some of the more important factors include the age of each spouse, earning capacity of each spouse, length of the marriage, education of each spouse, disability, contribution to property by each spouse, and many more. A stay at home parent in a 20 year marriage, for example, may be awarded the marital home as a specifically larger share of the marital property because the working spouse has a history of employment and a higher earning capacity than the stay at home parent does.
Alimony is governed by Mississippi Civil Code 93-5-23 and follows similar factors as will be addressed by a judge when determining property distribution. These factors include the age of each spouse, the earning capacity of each spouse, length of the marriage, education of each spouse, disability, and many other factors. The court will then decide how much, if any, alimony should be paid to one spouse and set a time frame for how long the payments should be made.
Mississippi Child Support
Mississippi child support typically comes into play during custody actions, divorce suits, paternity claims, and separate maintenance disputes. Specifically, Mississippi Code Sections 43-19-101 and 43-19-103 set the guidelines that the court will follow for child support amounts paid to a custodial parent. Under Mississippi child support law the parent who is not granted primary custody of the children, (normally called the “noncustodial parent”), is required to pay a percentage of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in order to support their child(ren). Specifically, the percentage of the noncustodial parent’s AGI that is used to pay for child support is based on the number of children subject to the award. Mississippi child support statute specifies this amount to be according to the table below and found in Mississippi Civil Code Title 43, Chapter 19 (cited as Miss. Code Ann. Section 43-19-101):
[column col=”1/2″]Number of Children Due Support
5 Children or more[/column]
[column col=”1/2″]Percentage of AGI Awarded for Support
The above child support guidelines are the standard minimum amounts of support due. However, there are exceptions to this rule where a noncustodial parent may have to pay more or can even pay less than this standard formula. This is where having a Mississippi family law professional review your case is essential to make sure you have the correct child support order entered.
Mississippi Child Custody
Mississippi child custody courts can award many different types of child custody arrangements depending on the judge’s discretion. Mississippi Civil Code Title 93 Chapter 5-94 state that: “custody shall be awarded as follows according to the best interests of the child.” This standard, known as the best interests standard, utilizes and examines the relationship with the child and the parents and many other important factors to give the judge an idea what he or she believes is best for the minor child. In certain situations the court can grant both joint legal and physical custody to both of the parents. Or both legal and physical custody can be granted to one party. Sometimes the court may even grant joint physical or legal custody to both parents, while maintaining that only one spouse has either full legal or full physical custody.
In general, Mississippi, by statute, believes that an award of joint custody is in the best interests of the child and therefore attempts to get parents to cooperate for their child’s best interests. When this situation is not possible, however, the court will award one parent with primary authority and custody rights while the other parent has visitation with the child. These rules apply whether a parent was married or unmarried (called a paternity action). If parties are unmarried, it is important for paternity to be established which may mean formal DNA tests be conducted or an open admission in court that a person is the father.
Mississippi Father’s Rights
Mississippi family law courts should treat both spouses as equals when determining divorce, custody and support arrangements. However, the reality is that often courts’ favor mothers over the interests of fathers. Even though Mississippi statute, in the Mississippi Civil Code Title 93-5-94 specifically states “no presumption in favor of maternal custody”, some judges still lean towards having a bias that the mother is and should remain the primary caregiver of the minor children. In order to combat this bias against father’s, it is essential for fathers to prepare for their custody or visitation battle well in advance to obtain the Mississippi father’s rights that they deserve. This means not becoming a victim to common pitfalls fathers make and establishing yourself as a better caregiver than the mother.
The Next Step to Obtaining Your Rights
Mississippi family law cases will have a drastic impact on your life. Whether going through a divorce or a child custody proceeding, it is essential to understand how the law affects your circumstances by reading and gaining knowledge of the law and its application to your case. Once you have made the decision to proceed in a Mississippi family law matter and you have educated yourself as much as possible, it is probably a good idea to speak with an expert professional as well We can help you out with that as we connect thousands of people every month – at no charge – to local family law attorneys and professionals to get them the advice they need. You and your family deserve the best – get started right away.