Does Mississippi Have Legal Separation?

Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Marriage is hard, there is no denying it and sometimes couples want to test the waters so-to-speak to see if they want to stay and work on their marriage or if they are ready to begin the divorce process. Couples who are not ready for divorce often opt for a trial separation, i.e. someone moves out of the house, gets an apartment, as if they are taking a so-called break from the marital home and possibly the marital relationship. Some states have laws that allow for couples to have a “legal separation”, however, Mississippi does not. Here the rule is simple: the law favors marriage. You are married until you are divorced or someone is dead. There is no such thing as legally separated in Mississippi, couples cannot go to a court and request that it put a hold on the marriage. This does not mean that you and your spouse cannot agree to a separation, it only means that any such agreement will not be judicially enforced.

There are matters which are ancillary to separation that the court will address for parties who are taking a break from marriage or those in the pre-divorce limbo. For parties who do not yet wish to obtain a divorce, the court may order separate maintenance wherein a spouse is ordered to provide financial support so long as the spouse being left behind is not the cause of the other’s departure from the marital home. Orders for separate maintenance either require the paying spouse to resume the marital relationship and reconcile (again, favoring marriage) or provide the ordered financial support. Separate maintenance actions may also include requests for child support and determinations of access to children during the period the parties are separated but do not wish to proceed with divorce. For parties who have decided that divorce is necessary, the court may award temporary relief, but that does not change one’s marital status. Temporary relief can include those things mentioned above, as well as alimony and child support. It will also designate a temporary child custody order that will remain in effect until the final disposition of the marriage (or if a divorce is not granted, then any temporary orders may be dissolved by the court at its discretion).

To sum it up, as I mentioned before, the law favors marriage, which is why Mississippi courts will not enforce a judgment ordering couples to remain separated, but there are options for couples who are contemplating divorce. Possibly the best thing for struggling couples before going down the road of separation and/or divorce is to simply arm oneself with information from their attorney, counselor or pastor.

 By: Courtney Wolfe 



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