Mississippi Separation Agreements Law


Divorce – Separation Agreements – Mississippi

Note:  This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of separation agreements in Mississippi, but does include basic and other provisions.

General Summary: Separation and Property Settlement Agreements may be signed by the parties to be effective upon dissolution of their marriage.  The property settlement is incorporated in the divorce decree, and such property settlement is not subject to modification. It is treated as a true and genuine contract, and the mere fact that it is between a divorcing husband and wife, and incorporated in a divorce decree, does not change its character.

Statutes:

Mississippi Code
Title 93  Domestic Relations
Chapter 005 Divorce and Alimony

Irreconcilable differences:

(1) Divorce from the bonds of matrimony may be granted on the ground of irreconcilable differences, but only upon the joint complaint of the husband and wife or a complaint where the defendant has been personally served with process or where the defendant has entered an appearance by written waiver of process.

(2) If the parties provide by written agreement for the custody and maintenance of any children of that marriage and for the settlement of any property rights between the parties and the court finds that such provisions are adequate and sufficient, the agreement may be incorporated in the judgment, and such judgment may be modified as other judgments for divorce.

(3) If the parties are unable to agree upon adequate and sufficient provisions for the custody and maintenance of any children of that marriage or any property rights between them, they may consent to a divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences and permit the court to decide the issues upon which they cannot agree. Such consent must be in writing, signed by both parties personally, must state that the parties voluntarily consent to permit the court to decide such issues, which shall be specifically set forth in such consent, and that the parties understand that the decision of the court shall be a binding and lawful judg ment. Such consent may not be withdrawn by a party without leave of the court after the court has commenced any proceeding, including the hearing of any motion or other matter pertaining thereto. The failure or refusal of either party to agree as to adequate and sufficient provisions for the custody and maintenance of any children of that marriage or any property rights between the parties, or any portion of such issues, or the failure or refusal of any party to consent to permit the court to decide such issues, shall not be used as evidence, or in any manner, against such party. No divorce shall be granted pursuant to this subsection until all matters involving custody and maintenance of any child of that marriage and property rights between the parties raised by the pleadings have been either adjudicated by the court or agreed upon by the parties and found to be adequate and sufficient by the court and included in the judgment of divorce. Appeals from any orders and judgments rendered pursuant to this subsection may be had as in other cases in chancery court only insofar as such orders and judgments relate to issues that the parties consented to have decided by the court.

(4) Complaints for divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences must have been on file for sixty (60) days before being heard. Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) of this section, a joint complaint of husband and wife or a complaint where the defendant has been personally served with process or where the defendant has entered an appearance by written waiver of process, for divorce solely on the ground of irreconcilable differences, shall be taken as proved and a final judgment entered thereon, as in other cases and without proof or testimony in termtime or vacation, the provisions of Section 93-5-17 to the contrary notwithstanding.

(5) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) of this section, no divorce shall be granted on the ground of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial; provided, however, that a divorce may be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial, if the contest or denial has been withdrawn or cancelled by the party filing same by leave and order of the court.

(6) Irreconcilable differences may be asserted as a sole ground for divorce or as an alternate ground for divorce with any other cause for divorce set out in Section 93-5-1.  § 93-5-2.

Children; spousal maintenance or alimony:

When a divorce shall be decreed from the bonds of matrimony, the court may, in its iscretion, having regard to the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case, as may seem equitable and just, make all orders touching the care, custody and maintenance of the children of the marriage, and also touching the maintenance and alimony of the wife or the husband, or any allowance to be made to her or him, and shall, if need be, require bond, sureties or other guarantee for the payment of the sum so allowed. Orders touching on the custody of the children of the marriage may be made in accordance with the provisions of Section 93-5-24. The court may afterwards, on petition, change the decree, and make from time to time such new decrees as the case may require. However, where proof shows that both parents have separate incomes or estates, the court may require that each parent contribute to the support and maintenance of the children of the marriage in proportion to the relative financial ability of each. In the event a legally responsible parent has health insurance available to him or her through an employer or organization that may extend benefits to the dependents of such parent, any order of support issued against such parent may require him or her to exercise the option of additional coverage in favor of such children as he or she is legally responsible to support.

Whenever the court has ordered a party to make periodic payments for the maintenance or support of a child, but no bond, sureties or other guarantee has been required to secure such payments, and whenever such payments as have become due remain unpaid for a period of at least thirty (30) days, the court may, upon petition of the person to whom such payments are owing, or such person’s legal representative, enter an order requiring that bond, sureties or other security be given by the person obligated to make such payments, the amount and sufficiency of which shall be approved by the court. The obligor shall, as in other civil actions, be served with process and shall be entitled to a hearing in such case.

Whenever in any proceeding in the chancery court concerning the custody of a child a party alleges that the child whose custody is at issue has been the victim of sexual or physical abuse by the other party, the court may, on its own motion, grant a continuance in the custody proceeding only until such allegation has been investigated by the Department of Human Services. At the time of ordering such continuance the court may direct the party, and his attorney, making such allegation of child abuse to report in writing and provide all evidence touching on the allegation of abuse to the Department of Human Services. The Department of Human Services shall investigate such allegation and take such action as it deems appropriate and as provided in such cases under the Youth Court Law (being Chapter 21 of Title 43, Mississippi Code of 1972) or under the laws establishing

If after investigation by the Department of Human Services or final disposition by the youth court or family court allegations of child abuse are found to be without foundation, the chancery court shall order the alleging party to pay all court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the defending party in responding to such allegation.

The court may investigate, hear and make a determination in a custody action when a charge of abuse and/or neglect arises in the course of a custody action as provided in Section 43-21-151, and in such cases the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child as provided under Section 43-21-121, who shall be an attorney. Unless the chancery court’s jurisdiction has been terminated, all disposition orders in such cases for placement with the Department of Human Services shall be reviewed by the court or designated authority at least annually to determine if continued placement with the department is in the best interest of the child or public.

The duty of support of a child terminates upon the emancipation of the child. The court may determine that emancipation has occurred and no other support obligation exists when the child:

(a) Attains the age of twenty-one (21) years, or
(b) Marries, or
(c) Discontinues full-time enrollment in school and obtains full-time employment prior to attaining the age of twenty-one (21) years, or
(d) Voluntarily moves from the home of the custodial parent or guardian and establishes independent living arrangements and obtains full-time employment prior to attaining the age of twenty-one (21) years.  § 93-5-23.

Case Law:

In Mississippi, the parties may, upon dissolution of their marriage, have a property settlement incorporated in the divorce decree, and such property settlement is not subject to modification. A true and genuine property settlement agreement is no different from any other contract, and the mere fact that it is between a divorcing husband and wife, and incorporated in a divorce decree, does not change its character. East v. East, 493 So.2d 927, 931-32 (Miss. 1986).

Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-2 provides that before granting a divorce the parties must by written agreement make adequate provision for child custody and maintenance, and also settle all property rights between them. The statute further provides that the decree may be modified as other decrees for divorce, which could only refer to child custody and maintenance, because property right settlements are fixed and final. East v. East, 493 So.2d 927 (Miss. 1986); In re Estate of Kennington, 204 So.2d 444 (Miss. 1967). A divorce judgment relating to child support is not a settlement of property rights, which is immutable, fixed and not subject to change, but a decretal provision based upon the reasonable needs of a child coupled with the ability of a parent to pay, Carpenter v. Carpenter, 519 So.2d 891, 894 (Miss. 1988), and which can vary, dependent upon future developments.