Mississippi’s Problems with Divorce Laws

  • Grounds for divorce in the state of Mississippi can create problems for the plaintiff seeking a divorce.
  • Divorce can get expensive and delayed in the state of Mississippi.
  • Advocate groups, state senators are pushing for reform.
laying the foundation

"The parameters of the grounds of divorce in the state of Mississippi make it challenging at times to seek a divorce, especially if your spouse is uninterested in getting one."

No-fault divorce has helped many in the United States separate themselves from unhappy marriages. As previously stated, no-fault divorce allows a spouse asking for the divorce to pursue one without having to prove that the other spouse did something wrong. In some form or another, it is a concept available in every state, as of 2010. In some states, however, it’s not as definitive as others.

Understanding Mississippi and divorce

In the state of Mississippi, a no-fault divorce occurs when a couple agrees to divorce and to the settlement of such issues as child custody and support, alimony, and property division, according to The Mississippi Bar. The state bar also says that if one spouse sues the other to end the marriage, the plaintiff bases the suit on one of the many divorce grounds allowed by state law, and the court gets to decide whether to grant the divorce.

The grounds for divorce in the state of Mississippi include desertion, natural impotency, pre-existing insanity, idiocy, a wife’s pregnancy by another person at the time of marriage, adultery, being in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, insanity that develops after the marriage ceremony, habitual drunkenness, habitual and excessive drug use, habitual cruel and inhumane treatment that endangers life, limb or health, bigamy, and incest, according to The Mississippi Bar.

The Freels family

The parameters of the grounds of divorce in the state of Mississippi make it challenging at times to seek a divorce, especially if your spouse is uninterested in getting one. A case that is making headlines at the moment surrounds Jackson, Mississippi resident Elizabeth Freels. She sought a divorce to her husband, David, of seven years, in 2001, according to The Washington Times.

David was uninterested in the divorce, and according to Elizabeth, he told her that he would not give her a divorce until the day she dies and that if he couldn’t have her, no one else would.

Because of the parameters of a divorce, even a no-fault divorce, in the state of Mississippi, the legal process can be delayed for years. In the case of the Freels, it was more than a decade.  Because of a lack of resources and the need for stability due to their three children, Elizabeth was forced to live with her husband and wait until 2005 to move and file for divorce.

The divorce continued to be a stalemate, because David claims he was requested to pay $300 a month in child support, in addition to being unemployed and “practically homeless.” He also contended with grounds for divorce being irreconcilable differences, because he claims that Elizabeth never attempted to reconcile.

After their youngest child went to college, Elizabeth moved to the state of Washington, where a plaintiff can file and obtain a divorce in 90 days. The papers were served, and while David could have contested it, he let the 90 days pass, finalizing the divorce.

Legislative problems

The issues surrounding the process of divorce in the state of Mississippi stem from the legislative level, where lawmakers have been reluctant to make divorce easier, in order to uphold the institution and sanctity of marriage. Because of how difficult the process can be, many can find themselves going bankrupt, in an attempt to end their union.

Small reforms have been attempted in the past, but failed. Many lawmakers who have been fighting for reforms claim that the current divorce laws put low-income individuals at a risk, because of their lack of resources for court battles that could last years.

Other cases have been documented that show Mississippi residents being put at risk, due to their inability to divorce their spouses. USA Today detailed a woman in Mississippi who had to flea her home and spend a week in an area shelter for abused women, because of her inability to leave her marriage. When she left the home, her husband drained the bank account, forcing her to work several part-time jobs in order to attempt to hire a lawyer.


Leaders of The Center for Violence Prevention and the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence have spoken out against the current protocol and are working with state senators to make sure that something is done to prevent further domestic abuse and make divorce easier in the state. These steps include adding domestic abuse to the “cruel and inhuman treatment” grounds for divorce clause. One senator has proposed a bill that would make a separation of two or more years as grounds for a divorce, as well.

Many previous opponents of domestic violence and divorce-related bills in the state of Mississippi have cited their belief that the bill is redundant and lines up with the cruel and inhumane grounds that already are listed as grounds for divorce in the state. They also have stated that the high divorce rate of the state of Mississippi is an indication that people are finding grounds to divorce already.

However, many fail to see the issues happening to real people who feel trapped in unhappy, and sometimes violent, marriages. They seek to reclaim their life and start again, and they should not be stopped by what the state defines as the grounds to pursue a new life for themselves and their children. Updating the laws and clauses to include a closer guideline to what other states are including in their grounds for divorce will allow for additional protection to individuals who are losing their livelihoods trying to afford a way out of their unhappy marriages.

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