Divorce proceedings are difficult enough when both spouses agree to the dissolution; they can be even more challenging if only one spouse wants the divorce. Under Mississippi law, if you have adequate grounds it is possible to obtain a divorce even if your partner is less-than-willing to cooperate with you in dissolving the marriage on an uncontested basis. Unfortunately, contested divorces are usually much more expensive since they generally take longer to resolve and require additional procedural steps.
I have grounds but can’t find my spouse to serve him/her papers. What next?
You decide you are ready for a divorce and hire our firm to prepare and file the necessary paperwork but when the process server or deputy sheriff sets off to serve the papers to your spouse, they are suddenly nowhere to be found. If they are purposefully evading process there are steps we can take to perfect service; however what if he/she moved and left no forwarding address, or no one knows where they can be found?
They can still be served; however, instead of serving them personally with court papers, you put a notice in the local newspaper, and “serve” your spouse by publication. This is not as simple as it sounds and there are several steps you must take. First, you have to establish your spouse is “not to be found” after a “diligent search and inquiry” on your part. Normally, we advise clients to engage the services of a professional investigator to perform the search and execute an Affidavit to that effect. Then a notice is run for three weeks, and if 30 days after the initial date of the publication your spouse has not been found or come forward, the court will consider him or her served. Please note that Court’s require strict compliance with the Rules of Service and you cannot secure process this way without conducting a diligent search and inquiry for your spouse so they can be served in person.
My spouse has refused to sign the papers; now what?
If you are filing under specific grounds for divorce – there are 10 grounds for fault in Mississippi – then it does not matter if your spouse refuses to sign. The Summons and Complaint gives your spouse notice of the action and allows them an opportunity to be heard if they desire. Even if your spouse does not respond or even show up in court, you can still obtain a divorce as long as you go to court and bring a witness who will corroborate what you have to say. If your spouse is properly served and doesn’t show up to Court then most of the time the judge will hear the proof and thereafter issue a default judgment to grant your divorce. Of course, this is provided everything is in order and the Court is satisfied with your reasons for getting a divorce.
If, however, you wished to file under “irreconcilable differences” (also called a “no-fault divorce”), then your spouse MUST sign the paperwork in order to proceed. A divorce based on irreconcilable differences can only be granted if both you and your spouse agree to it.
Regardless of why your spouse has been unresponsive, the smart move for you is to hire a skilled Southaven divorce attorney to help you from the beginning. At Taylor Jones Taylor, we have successfully represented clients through challenging divorces processes, and we may be able to help you, too. Please contact us to learn more about our services, or to schedule a consultation at one of our offices in Olive Branch, Hernando or Southaven.