If you're a Mississippi resident, you may not have been aware that your state was one of just two in the nation (joining South Dakota) without a no-fault divorce provision. However, this is scheduled to soon change, as the state's legislature recently passed a bill to amend the divorce laws to permit victims of domestic abuse to divorce without first needing to prove "irreconcilable differences" or another of the stated statutory grounds for divorce. Even for those who are divorcing (or planning to divorce) for reasons other than domestic abuse, this change may have some impact. Read on to learn more about the aspects of Mississippi's divorce law being changed and how this may impact the way your own divorce will proceed.
What parts of Mississippi's divorce laws will be changing?
If the Governor approves the legislature's addition of domestic violence as a ground for divorce, this could have an immediate impact on hundreds of families whose divorce proceedings are tied up in litigation. Because Mississippi doesn't have any "no fault" divorce provisions except for the general "irreconcilable differences," those attempting to divorce without the other spouse's consent can find themselves facing a tremendous uphill battle. Often, those seeking a divorce may spend years litigating the seemingly simple question of whether their marriage should be permitted to legally end.
The current Mississippi model requiring spousal consent in most divorces can make it especially hard for victims of domestic violence to leave their abusers, as it's unlikely these abusers will consent to divorce and the victims may face significantly ramped-up levels of abuse while they're trying to leave.
How could changes to Mississippi's divorce law impact your own pending divorce?
If you file for divorce after this change in the law has become effective, you'll find "domestic abuse" on the list of approved reasons for divorce. Checking this box will help create a presumption that the divorce should be granted, requiring your spouse to present evidence arguing why it should not; this differs dramatically from the current method that requires you to prove to the court why your marriage should be dissolved.
Even if you've already filed for divorce and cited irreconcilable differences as the reason, it may not be too late to amend your petition to add domestic abuse as a ground for divorce if violence or emotional abuse was one of the reasons you ended your marriage. Doing so can help you prevent your case from being litigated for months or even years if your spouse refuses to let you (or the idea of marriage) go.