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Mississippi's divorce laws will not be updated

It can be extremely difficult to get a divorce in Mississippi if both spouses will not agree to end the marriage. That's because Mississippi is one of only two states in the U.S. that do not have no-fault divorce laws.

In order for the court to grant a divorce in Mississippi, both spouses must consent to end the marriage citing "irreconcilable differences," or the spouse who wants to end the marriage must be able to show cause.

Grounds for divorce in Mississippi

The grounds for divorce in Mississippi include:

  • Natural impotency
  • Adultery
  • Habitual drunkenness or drug use
  • Jail time
  • Willful continuous desertion
  • Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Bigamy, or marriage to someone else
  • Wife's pregnancy by another
  • Insanity

Proving any one of these grounds can be expensive and time consuming as many require "clear and convincing evidence."

New grounds for divorce are killed

Seeing the need to update Mississippi's outdated divorce laws -- which have changed very little over the past 100 years -- lawmakers proposed two bills that would have added domestic abuse and lengthy separation as grounds.

However, the two bills were killed a few weeks ago by the chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee, who is also a Baptist preacher. The lawmaker, Rep. Andy Gipson, said adding the two new grounds would "open the floodgate" for more divorces in the state.

Another lawmaker who proposed adding domestic violence as grounds for divorce in the state, Sen. Sally Doty, said she was "very disappointed" that her bill did not make it out of the House committee. She said it does a disservice to victims of domestic violence who need help getting out of a marriage.

Currently, domestic violence victims can use habitual cruel and inhuman treatment as grounds for divorce, but it usually means the abuse has to happen on more than one occasion, and if the victim leaves and returns home, the grounds may no longer apply as it can be considered "condoning" the violence.

The other bill that was killed would have made "bona fide separation" of two or more years grounds for divorce as long as the couple did not have children under the age of 20.

How a Mississippi divorce lawyer can help

Unfortunately, Mississippi's outdated divorce laws result in divorce proceedings that can last years and cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees when both spouses cannot agree to end the marriage.

It is extremely important in these situations -- and in any divorce situation, really -- to speak with an experienced lawyer who can help you find a way to end the marriage as efficiently as possible.

Source: The Clarion-Ledger, "House kills divorce law reform without a vote," Geoff Pender, Feb. 28, 2017

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