Mississippi Court Records
The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Mississippi
The legal termination of a marital union can occur by divorce or annulment. However, divorce actions are more common in Mississippi than annulments because specific legal reasons must be stated and evidenced before any Chancery Court can issue an annulment decree. Meanwhile, as Mississippi accepts no-fault divorce grounds, a divorce can be granted by the court without the need for a reason or proof of it, other than that two people can no longer remain in their marriage.
What is a Mississippi Divorce Decree?
When a divorce is finalized in Mississippi, the court issues a judicial decree dissolving an individual’s marriage (Miss. Code Ann. § 93–5–25). This court document is referred to as a Final Judgment of Divorce, or less formally: a divorce decree. It establishes the termination of a person’s marriage and orders of the court on matters such as property distribution, debt division, alimony, child support, child care/custody, and visitation rights. According to Miss. Code Ann. § 93–5–31, this decree may be rescinded by the court where it was issued when the parties involved jointly request and show proof of their reconciliation.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What is an Annulment in Mississippi?
In Mississippi, a civil annulment is a judicial declaration that one’s marriage has been nullified or voided, as if the ceremony never took place. In the state, the legal process for annulment is regulated by Miss. Code Ann. §§ 93–7–1 et seq. It is important that note that this kind of annulment differs from religious annulment which is typically granted by the Catholic Church. Also, legally, religious annulments are not recognized by state laws. This means that although a couple may be granted a religious annulment, it may be necessary to obtain a decree in court as well for the change in marital status to be acknowledged by the state.
Typically, records of civil annulment proceedings are not available to the public in Mississippi, as the availability of such records will negate the reason for annulment in the first place.
Annulment vs Divorce in Mississippi
Upon issuance of an annulment decree by a Mississippi Chancery Court, a marital union between two persons is declared to be null and void under the law, and such persons are returned to their unmarried status. This ramification is one of the major differences between an annulment and a divorce. Others include the statutory reasons (grounds) upon which a petition can be based; limits within which petitions can be filed or heard; alimony; and marital debt/property division.
Statutory grounds and limits
The legal grounds for annulment proceedings are described under Miss. Code Ann. §§ 93–7–1 and 93–7–3:
- Incestuous marriages between two persons who are related within degrees prohibited by law, such as parents/kids and uncles/nieces
- Bigamous marriages: when one spouse was already married at the time a marital union was entered
- Incurable impotence
- Marriages where one spouse has been adjudicated mentally incapable or ill by a court
- Marriages entered into by persons incapable of consenting either because of age or physical causes
- Marriages where consent was gotten by fraud or force
- Marriages where the wife was impregnated by someone else who was no the husband, without the husband’s knowledge
Annulment petitions based on grounds 5, 6, and 7 must be brought within 6 months of the discovery of such grounds. Otherwise, it is not possible to file for annulment under those facts in the State. In contrast, divorce suits do not have such statutory limits.
Divorce suits can be filed upon fault and no-fault grounds in Mississippi. The 12 fault-based grounds are established in Miss. Code Ann. § 93–5–1 and include habitual drunkenness, intentional desertion, natural impotency, bigamy, mental illness, and adultery, among others. Whereas, the no-fault ground is irreconcilable differences (Miss. Code Ann. § 93–5–2), and it is used more frequently than other grounds. Persons who file on the ground of irreconcilable differences must wait 60 days, at least, for a decree to be issued. Other divorce and annulment grounds do not have such waiting periods. However, the time taken to finalize a divorce may be months or several years.
Alimony and debt/property division
In annulment suits where there are minor children, the judge can decide child custody, child support, and visitation rights. Alimony and marital debt/property division matters are typically decided in divorce proceedings. However, the court may order temporary support, a less permanent form of alimony.
Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Mississippi?
Generally, the cost of a divorce or annulment case depends on the time needed to establish legal grounds, settle all marital issues, and finalize the case. Contested cases tend to be more expensive than cases where both parties agree on the matters of their divorce (support, custody, debts, etc.) because of the complexity in resolving these issues. Also, legal fees/costs required to investigate and prove claims or grounds have an impact on the amount spent in litigation. As a result, litigation costs are case-specific and will vary according to the factors of the case.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Mississippi?
In Mississippi, when spouses are on the same page regarding matters of their divorce, it is referred to as an uncontested divorce. These matters include property distribution, alimony, child custody, visitation, child support, and debt allocation. To begin uncontested divorce proceedings, spouses must have a written agreement on such matters, which will be presented to a judge. This kind of divorce is also known as an “irreconcilable differences divorce case”.
Where to Get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Mississippi
Uncontested divorce forms in Mississippi can be obtained from the local Clerk of Court offices. Interested persons may find resources for obtaining forms, as well as filing guides, through the Mississippi Judiciary’s Civil Legal Assistance page. In uncontested cases, spouses will be required to file the following forms:
- Joint Complaint for Divorce (signed by both spouses in front of a notary public)
- Civil Cover Sheet
- Property Settlement Agreement
- Judgment of Divorce
- Affidavit of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (for plaintiffs with minor children)
Individuals can inspect and copy uncontested divorce records from the courthouse under the Mississippi Public Records Law and Miss Code Ann. § 9–1–38, Additionally, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) accepts five-year record search requests. The MSDH maintains records from January 1, 1926, to June 30, 1938, and January 1, 1942, to date. Records that have been sealed or are confidential under Miss. Code Ann. § 25–61–11.1 are not publicly accessible.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How Do I Get a Copy of my Divorce Decree in Mississippi?
The Clerk of Chancery Court issues divorce decrees in Mississippi at the county level. An individual who wants a copy of a divorce decree may request in person at the Clerk of Court’s office in the country where the decree was issued for a fee. The Mississippi Judiciary publishes an index of Chancery Court Clerks on its website. The phone/fax numbers and location of Clerk offices can be obtained from this list.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Do I Get a Mississippi Divorce Decree Online?
The Mississippi Chancery Clerks of Court do not maintain or disseminate divorce decrees through remote public access portals, whether at the state or county level. Divorce decree requests must be made at the courthouses. To identify a record, requesters may be asked to provide the exact names of the parties involved, case number, and filing date/year.