A divorce can happen when you least expect it, or it may be the culmination of years of disagreements and failed attempts to repair a damaged relationship. In either scenario, the actual process of divorce often overwhelms even the most prepared of spouses. While many couples presume that they will be able to achieve an uncontested divorce by agreeing on how to divide assets and allocate time with children, actually nailing down the details often proves more difficult. Jackson divorce lawyer M. Devin Whitt can help you with everything from the simplest to the most complex situations.Divorce in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi
Divorce is more common in Jackson and other cities throughout the state than in other parts of the country. Jackson is the county set of Hinds County, Mississippi and, according to recent statistics, Mississippi has the sixth-highest divorce rate in the country for women and the 11th-highest divorce rate for men. It is unclear exactly why this is the case, but what is for certain is that it is not the ease of the process that makes divorce so common. Getting a divorce in Mississippi can actually be quite difficult.
Unlike most other states in the country, Mississippi does not allow one spouse to file for divorce against another spouse without their knowledge and simply cite irreconcilable differences as a basis for divorce. Instead, Mississippi law offers only two options: (1) the two spouses can agree that the divorce is necessary and complete an uncontested divorce based on irreconcilable differences, or (2) one spouse can seek a divorce against the other spouse without their consent, but they must show that the other spouse is “at fault” for the divorce. The second option is known as a contested divorce. An experienced divorce attorney can help Jackson, Mississippi residents determine which option works better for them.The Process in Hind County: Negotiation or Litigation?
Contested and uncontested divorces in Mississippi represent opposite ends of the legal spectrum. An uncontested divorce happens primarily through negotiation between the spouses and their attorneys and the creation of a marital agreement that details the division of property, any spousal support, and how the custody and support of children will be structured, if there are children resulting from the marriage. Typically, all of these factors need to be resolved amicably. If there is a dispute, the parties can allow the court to decide all disputed issues via a consent decree. Otherwise, the divorce may turn into a contested divorce if no resolution of the disputed issue can be achieved. While a peaceful resolution might seem challenging, it comes with numerous benefits, including reduced stress, shorter waiting times, less expense and maintaining the control over the terms of the settlement agreement. In my experience, I have learned that maintaining control over the terms of any settlement is very important aspect of this process when considering whether to settle a case.
A contested divorce in Mississippi is more like traditional litigation. Divorce complaints for Jackson residence are typically filed in the chancery court of the first Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi. There, a complaint will be filed alleging fault based grounds for divorce. A motion for temporary relief may be included in the complaint and there will normally be a temporary hearing that occurs quickly in the process where the court addresses temporary issues relating to the temporary use, possession and control of marital property, temporary custody, and temporary child and spousal support. The purpose of the hearing is to maintain the “status quo” of the parties and children while they are involved in the litigation process. Thereafter, the attorneys in the matter will often propound written discovery, which allows the attorneys and the litigants to learn more about the merits and problems associated with each parties’ case and gain more information about each party’s financial status. Completed 8.05 Financial Disclosures should be exchanged by this time. Finally, there will be a trial in front one of the four chancery court judges (chancellors) currently presiding in the Hinds County Chancery Court in Jackson, Mississippi.
Since one spouse must prove “grounds” for divorce (that the other spouse has committed some kind of marital misconduct that would entitled the innocent spouse to a divorce) in Mississippi, the chancery court judge may “bifurcate” the trial, or hear what amounts to a trial on fault before deciding what to do with property division and custody and support of children. This means that both parties will present evidence about the claim of fault or defenses against it, will have the opportunity present witnesses, and offer any arguments against each other before a judge. This can quickly become an emotionally taxing and stressful process, especially if children are involved. One of the critiques of the contested divorce process in Mississippi is that it discourages people who may need a divorce the most from getting out of a difficult or abusive relationship.Contact a Knowledgeable Divorce Lawyer in the Jackson Area
Because of the unique laws governing divorce in Mississippi, it makes sense to take your time and think carefully about how you want to proceed. If you believe that there is a possibility that your spouse and you can come to an agreement on the divorce, this is often the best way to move forward from a marriage, but it requires thoughtful negotiation, thoughtful and experienced representation, and patience with the process. Conversely, if you know that your spouse is not amenable to a divorce, you should take the time to gather the evidence necessary to establish a claim for fault in your marriage, and you should work with an attorney to prepare a case before you file. Experienced Jackson divorce attorney M. Devin Whitt understands the emotional, financial, and practical challenges of divorce and can work with you to find an approach that meets your needs. For more information, or to schedule an initial consultation, contact us online or at (601) 607-5055.