Mississippi law provides for parties to gain a divorce through one of two methods; 1) Agree to the Divorce and all issues, called an Irreconcilable Differences Divorce, or 2) pursue a Fault Based Divorce granted due to the other party’s misconduct. That’s it. Mississippi does not have a true NO FAULT divorce process.
So,what happens if you cannot agree and do not have grounds?
In the mid 1980’s this issue was pointed out by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
“Prior to 1976 mature and responsible people who found their marriages irretrievably broken were offered by our law absurd choices…the complaining spouse had to choose between outright perjury and hoping that the chancellor would not strictly enforce the standards of proof legally required to establish one of the twelve grounds for divorce. The other choice…the ‘knock down, drag out’ fight to which the adversary system invariably leads…frequently creating more problems than are solved. Divorce had become a degrading, dehumanizing experience.”
Gallaspy v. Gallaspy, 459 So.2d 283 (MS 1984). Justice James Robertson, Concurring Opinion
…further improvements in our law are needed. As enlightened and desirable as was the enactment of the Irreconcilable Differences Act in 1976, the job has not yet been completed…[the] Irreconcilable Differences Act–it facilitates, even encourages, financial blackmail…the chancery court has not authority to grant a divorce…unless the parties have reached an agreement…the spouse wanting the divorce or feeling that he or she must obtain a divorce is subject to financial blackmail. A party without fault grounds and no mutual agreement has only two options; (1) knuckle under and accept less than favorable financial terms or (2) go to court and try to obtain a contested divorce and an accompanying alimony and support award, when, as she and her lawyers surely must have known, she really did not have “grounds.” Id.
Justice Robertson actually proposed adding a 13th fault ground of Irreconcilable Differences, which if proven would allow the Court to award an ID divorce to one party, even over the objection of the other party and would allow the Court to rule upon the support issues.
However, Mississippi law actually perpetuates Blackmail. If your spouse won’t agree and you don’t have fault grounds then you are STUCK.
There have been a number of bills proposed to end this divorce conundrum, but so far none has gained any traction. Let me know your thoughts. Do you support allowing for a true No Fault divorce, or an irreconcilable differences divorce after a period of separation?
Matthew Thompson is a Family Law attorney and is in favor of amending the Irreconcilable Differences divorce statute.
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