Legal Separation in Mississippi: Everything You Need to Know

A man and a woman take off their wedding rings because they want to break up

In Mississippi, a legal separation is not officially recognized by state laws. However, it is possible to apply for separate maintenance if a married couple lives separately while remaining legally married. It involves obtaining a court-approved order that addresses matters such as child custody, visitation, support, and division of assets and debts. It can be an option for couples who prefer to live apart but do not wish to end their marriage for various reasons, such as religious beliefs or the hope of reconciliation.

If you want to learn more about legal separation, how it differs from a divorce, and whether there are possible alternatives in Mississippi, keep reading this article.

What Is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is an arrangement in which spouses remain married while living separately.

There are no specific Mississippi legal separation laws since the state does not officially recognize such legal action. However, if spouses experience problems in their marriage and one party leaves the other one without officially getting divorced, the left spouse can request separate maintenance if they cannot maintain family home and raise children without financial assistance from the other party. In this case, it is necessary to file a relevant request at the chancery court in the county where either of the spouses resides.

A judge will review the case and may issue a maintenance order. This formal document contains the court’s decisions on child custody and support, alimony, property and debt division, and all other crucial points of separate living. In simple terms, these are clear guidelines for spouses living apart on resolving various marital matters. Typically, a maintenance order is issued for a specific period of time. It is over if the absent spouse returns home or if the parties file for divorce.

Can You Legally Separate in Mississippi?

Is there legal separation in Mississippi? No, spouses cannot complete a legal separation agreement form and start living apart as per the court order. However, one party can apply for a separate maintenance order if the breadwinning spouse has left home, and the other party cannot maintain the household by themselves and does not want a divorce for some reason.

To prepare this request, spouses usually address a lawyer, considering many details to be covered for fair responsibilities division, financial settlements, and other important matters.

There are different reasons for partners to choose separate maintenance.

  • Some spouses adhere to strict religious beliefs that recognize divorce as a sin.
  • Separating while remaining legally married can have financial advantages, such as maintaining access to a spouse’s health insurance, military benefits, or social security benefits.
  • If spouses go through a difficult period in their marital life, they may want to live separately to understand their needs. This option implies the possibility of reconciliation.
  • When spouses have minor kids, they may choose separate maintenance so as not to traumatize children. Besides, the time spent living apart may be used for preparing thorough arrangements for child custody and support.
  • Some individuals may want to avoid the social pressure associated with divorce and prefer the less stigmatized status of being separated but married.

It must be noted that separate maintenance orders are temporary.

How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce in Mississippi?

Clock and calendar that indicate the length of the period of separation before divorce
The spouses must live separately after filing for divorce before the court finalizes the divorce.

There is no legal requirement for a mandatory separation period a couple has to complete before getting divorced in the state. However, spouses must comply with a waiting period after filing divorce forms, which is 60 days in Mississippi. This waiting time allows parties to reevaluate their relationship, resolve conflicts, and potentially resume cohabitation.

Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation

The choice between divorce vs legal separation is always individual. Though filing for legal separation in Mississippi is impossible, certain factors may prompt a couple to choose separate maintenance over divorce in the state.

FactorsSeparate MaintenanceDivorce
Legal Termination of MarriageNoYes
Legal StatusSpouses are still marriedSpouses are divorced
Possibility to RemarryNo, spouses remain married and can reconcileYes
Grounds for filingSpouses want to live apart without getting divorced, and one party cannot financially maintain the household or support childrenSpouses can apply for no-fault or fault-based divorce
BenefitsPartners may retain certain benefits while living apart, which may be important for religious or personal reasonsWhen getting divorced, spouses may lose certain benefits, such as spousal health insurance or military benefits

In general, the main benefit of legal separation, or separate maintenance in the case of Mississippi, is the couple’s flexibility in addressing their unique needs and circumstances while keeping their legal marriage intact. On the other hand, a serious benefit of divorce over legal separation is the feeling of finality it provides. Ex-spouses can start new lives, having all important divorce-related issues resolved.

What Are the Alternatives to Legal Separation in MS?

Talking about alternatives to legal separation in Mississippi, it is possible to consider separate maintenance. It can occur under specific conditions when parties do not want to end a marriage for some reason but live apart and request the court to make orders on financial or child-related matters to regulate their relationship.

If spouses don’t see any possibility of harmonizing their relationship and don’t want to live together anymore, divorce is the only viable option.

It is better to apply for an uncontested, no-fault divorce. In this case, the process will take less time than contested proceedings and will be less emotionally draining. Besides, the cost of no-fault divorce in Mississippi can be approximately $500-$600. Of course, such moderate expenses are possible if spouses are on amicable terms. When attorneys and other experts are involved in resolving divorce disputes, the cost gets much higher.

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