Mississippi Court Records
How to File For Divorce in Mississippi
The Mississippi Chancery Courts are responsible for deciding all divorce cases filed within the State. In Mississippi, a divorce case begins when an aggrieved person who has been a state resident for at least 6 months files an action to end a marriage with the Clerk of Chancery Court. For the purposes of ensuing proceedings, the filing party will be referred to as the plaintiff and the receiving or opposing party as the defendant. According to Miss. Code Ann. §§ 93–5–5 and 93–5–11, a divorce action must be filed upon certain statutory grounds and in the plaintiff’s county of residence if the spouse is not a resident. If the defendant is a resident, the complaint must be filed in the defendant’s county of residence. For spouses who are separated, the county of filing is where both parties resided prior to the separation if the plaintiff still resides there. When the ground for divorce is based wholly on irreconcilable differences, the action can be filed in either spouse’s residing county. An individual must be informed on the law surrounding divorce actions and rules of the specific court of filing before proceeding with legal action. This is because the lack of knowledge of one’s legal rights or responsibilities, and the court processes can cause a case to be thrown out by the court at the plaintiff’s expense, or a judgment entered that is displeasing to the litigant.
Do I Need a Reason for Divorce in Mississippi?
Yes, Mississippi law provides 12 fault-based grounds for divorce under Miss. Code Ann. § 93–5–1. However, a judge will grant a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences when divorcing parties agree that their marriage is unsalvageable and over, and can agree on marital issues including support, visitation, property division, debt allocation, and child custody (Miss. Code Ann. § 93–5–2).
The twelve fault-based grounds for divorce in Mississippi are:
- Natural impotence
- Commitment to a penal institution without pardon
- Willful desertion for at least one year
- Habitual/regular drunkenness
- Habitual/regular and excessive drug use (including morphine, opium, and other kindred drugs)
- Habitual/regular inhuman and cruel conduct, including domestic violence/abuse
- Mental illness or idiocy that was not known by the plaintiff at the time of marriage
- Bigamy: married to another person when the other marriage was contracted
- Incestuous marriage: when both parties are related to themselves
- Pregnancy of a person’s wife at the time of marriage, if unknown by the plaintiff
- Incurable mental illness: the defendant must, however, be confined for at least 3 years in a mental institution before an action can be filed. Also, such a person must be thoroughly examined by 2 accredited physicians or doctors who must establish that such illness exists, and 1 of them must be the superintendent of the individual’s mental institution
As stated earlier, other than the divorce grounds based on fault, spouses can be divorced because of irreconcilable differences. However, this can only happen under any of the following circumstances:
- Both spouses file a joint complaint with the court
- The non-filing spouse receives a complaint by personal service
- Entry of an appearance with a written waiver of process by the non-filing spouse. This means that the spouse accepts that there is no need to be served with the complaint
Typically, these cases are heard by the court 60 days after the complaint is filed.
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.
Why do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?
In divorce cases, litigants can commence legal action in a Mississippi Chancery Court without a lawyer. However, it may be necessary to retain or consult an experienced lawyer on the legal procedures for divorces in Mississippi, as well as the suitable forms to file with the court. Also, a lawyer can assist with settlement negotiations, the court hearing/trial, and the discovery process (exchange of information during a divorce proceeding), gathering evidence, and protecting a client’s best interests.
How do I Get Started in a Divorce in Mississippi?
To get started with a divorce case in Mississippi, the filing party must meet the requirements for residency: either spouse must be residing within the state for at least 6 months before filing a complaint, and other relevant divorce papers, with the Clerk of Chancery Court. Parties filing for divorce, except joint/no-fault divorces, will need to file an Affidavit of Non-Collusion as well. Typical information that will be required for a filing includes dates of birth, employer details, contact information, income statements, living expenses (utilities, clothing, food, insurance, dental, child maintenance, etc), assets (personal properties, financial accounts, investments, and real estate titles), and liabilities.
The filing fee for divorce across the Mississippi Courts is uniform but differs if the divorce is contested (fault) or uncontested (no-fault/joint). The fee for contested cases is $158 and for uncontested cases, $148. After filing a complaint with the court, the plaintiff must serve copies of the complaint and other necessary legal papers to the defendant. Service is done in accordance with local court rules. The service process and fees may be obtained from the court or by consulting a lawyer.
Once all filing and serving processes are completed, a hearing date will be scheduled and the plaintiff informed by the court. As stated previously, for joint divorces, there is a waiting period of 60 days before the case is heard by the court but no such waiting period exists for fault-based divorces. However, the law requires the plaintiff involved in a divorce based on fault grounds to notify the defendant at least 30 days before the trial date.
How to File for Divorce in Mississippi Without a Lawyer?
The legal process for filing a divorce without a lawyer is similar to that of filing with legal representation in Mississippi. However, the forms will differ if it is a divorce based on irreconcilable differences (no-fault). In pro-se (self-represented) no-fault divorces, individuals will need to file documents such as the:
- Civil Cover Sheet
- Joint Complaint for Divorce
- Financial Statement (including attachments such as 3-month payslips and the previous year’s tax returns) and Certificate of Compliance
- Property Settlement Agreement
- Judgment of Divorce
- Affidavit Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (for litigants with minor children)
The Joint Complaint and Property Settlement Agreement papers must be signed by both spouses in front of a notary public. Afterward, these documents and the UCCJEA must be filed in the appropriate Chancery Court and other listed documents submitted, except the Judgment of Divorce. Litigants must pay the filing fee for divorce. The Clerk of Court may be contacted to know the court fee. To know the date of filing and case number, a party may ask for copies of the Joint Complaint and Property Settlement Agreement from the Clerk.
Once all documents are filed, the Clerk will inform the litigant of the court date for the divorce hearing, which is typically 60 days after the filing date. If a spouse opposes the petition within this waiting period, the court cannot grant the petition until that person withdraws it. Therefore, it is essential to reconfirm some days before the hearing that this did not happen. At the hearing, when a judge signs the Judgment of Divorce, the litigant must file the original with the Clerk and request at least two copies, one of which will be delivered to the former spouse.
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 Does Mississippi Divorce Mediation Work?
Mississippi courts do not authorize or order mediation for divorce proceedings. Also, there are no provisions outlined by law or court rule. Although the courts cannot impose these sessions to resolve conflicts between parents, spouses can still partake in mediation outside the court to reach agreements or settlements concerning a case. However, the retained mediator cannot submit any advice for the judge’s consideration.
How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in Mississippi?
In Mississippi, no laws or court rules require the attendance of mediation by spouses who cannot agree on parenting, custody, or visitation matters. This procedure is not part of divorce proceedings in the State.
Are Divorce Records Public in Mississippi?
Divorce records, decrees, and indexes are maintained by the Clerks of Chancery Court in Mississippi. Unlike the health departments of some U.S States, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) Vital Records office does not preserve divorce records or provide them to the public for a fee. Nevertheless, the Department offers five-year index searches for divorces granted from January 1, 1926, to June 30, 1938, and from January 1, 1942, to the present day. Mississippi’s Public Records Law does not explicitly prohibit divorce records in the possession of the Clerk of Court from being accessible to the public, nor does the Miss Code Ann. § 9–1–38: Judicial Records Exempted from Public Access. As a result, interested parties may access divorce information at public terminals located in courthouses or through the Clerk Offices for a fee, except sensitive information exempted by Miss. Code Ann. § 25–61–11.1 or sealed by the court.
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 Mississippi Divorce Records?
Any individual who wants to obtain copies of a Mississippi divorce record/decree or view indexes may visit the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the divorce decree was ordered. Contact details and addresses for the Courts and Clerks of Court can be found on the Mississippi Judiciary’s webpage for the Chancery Court. A requester must pay a certain fee to obtain copies.
Five-year searches offered by the MSDH’s Vital Records office make it easy to obtain information necessary to locate a record in a Chancery Court, such as a court record’s book and page number, and the county of divorce. The office charges a fee of $17 per 5-year search and can be contacted at (601) 206–8200 for searches.