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Questions about divorce and child custody

Mississippi Divorce and Family Law Services


Divorce

Divorce cases make up a large part of our work.  Jeremy and Ann Regan have handled divorces all over the state, ranging from “friendly”, simple cases to “nasty”, complicated cases.

Unlike some states, Mississippi does not allow true “no-fault” divorce, in which one party can get a divorce for any reason or no reason at all, even if the other spouse does not agree. Instead, Mississippi allows a person to get a divorce only when (1) they have a reason stated in Mississippi Code Annotated Section 93-5-1 or (2) their spouse agrees to get a divorce.  As you can imagine, or as you might be experiencing, this system can lead to unusual circumstances and problems.

The Mississippi Code provides twelve reasons for divorce.  The most common reasons are adultery, desertion, and habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Other, more infrequently utilized grounds include natural impotency; sentencing to the penitentiary, habitual drunkenness; habitual use of opium or like drug; mental illness or an intellectual disability at the time of marriage; marriage to another at the time of the purported marriage; pregnancy of the wife by another person at the time of the marriage; relation within the prohibited degrees of kinship (incestuous relationships); and incurable mental illness.

Mississippi’s version of “no-fault” divorce is called Irreconcilable Differences divorce, and it can be granted only upon the written consent of both parties.  The terms of the divorce are negotiated between the parties, if possible, and if no settlement is reached, all the issues can be submitted to the court for a decision.

Read more on the Mississippi Divorce page.


Adoption

Helping people with adoptions is one of our favorite things to do as legal professionals.  Most family law disputes are ugly, tiresome, and difficult, but most adoptions are positive and truly make a difference in the lives of the clients.  We have handled adoptions stemming from agreements, as well as termination of parental rights, and we know the process.


Child Custody and Visitation

Child custody and visitation can be the most difficult – and important – issues in a family law case.  Custody disputes can arise when people have never been married, in a divorce case, or after a divorce.  Custody is generally governed by what’s best for the child, and the Mississippi Supreme Court has laid out factors, called the Albright factors, to help courts make this decision.  Child custody, once granted to one of the parents, is modifiable if certain things are established, including a material change of circumstances that adversely impacts the child and that the best interests of the child would be served by a change in custody.  We deal with custody issues in almost every case, and we are well versed in the rules that govern custody determinations and modifications.

Visitation schedules are different in almost every situation; there really is no such thing as “standard visitation” in Mississippi.  We write custom visitation agreements, based on the particular needs of our clients, routinely.


Settlement Negotiation and Drafting

Settling a family law case out of court is sometimes better than going to trial, at least that’s what we believe.  We love going to court; it’s why we went into litigation instead of real estate closings.  But, in the end, it can be better to work out a family law case instead of allowing a judge to decide it, no matter how good the judge is.  We have excellent judges in our state, but they only get to hear a tiny fraction of what is going on in a case because there simply isn’t enough time to hear every fact about every case.  Plus, do you really want everyone hearing your dirty laundry?  Most people say “no.”  Our firm writes custom settlement agreements all the time and we know how to negotiate.


Post-Divorce Litigation

The truth is, many family law cases are never really over.  Visitation disputes arise, and people fail to pay child support.  Parties decide to move away, and sometimes they don’t work very well together, even after the first “round” of litigation.  Situations like this lead to even more litigation, including actions for Modification and Contempt.

Generally, a request for modification asserts that something isn’t working or that there has been a material change of circumstances since the Judgment was entered, and the party filing the request asks the court to modify the Judgment to fix the problem.  Sometimes, the problem is caused by the language of the Judgment itself, and sometimes it is caused by circumstances of life.

When a person fails to comply with the Judgment of Divorce, the most frequently used action for the other spouse is suit alleging contempt of court.  The person in violation can be fined monetarily or imprisoned.

Read more on the Problems After Divorce page.


Alienation of Affection

Mississippi is one of only a few states that still recognizes alienation of affection as a cause of action.  In general, this claim asserts that a third party wrongfully interfered with a family relationship, that the plaintiff was damaged, and that the defendant’s conduct was a cause of the damages.  A showing of illicit sexual intercourse is not necessary; in fact, even a company can be called into court to answer for wrongful conduct in this context.  We have successfully resolved alienation of affection claims in state and federal courts.


Grandparents’ Visitation Rights

Grandparents are not on equal footing with the natural parents of children, but they do have at least some potential rights to visitation.  If a parent is awarded custody of a minor child, or if the parent’s parental rights are terminated, or if the parent dies, either of his or her parents – the grandparents of the minor child – may petition the court to seek visitation rights with the child.  Otherwise, grandparents may seek visitation if they can prove that (1) they established a viable relationship with the child; (2) the parent or custodian of the child unreasonably denied the grandparent visitation rights with the child; and (3) visitation rights of the grandparent with the child would be in the best interests of the child.  We have fought for the rights of grandparents to visit with grandchildren when they have been wrongfully and unreasonable denied visitation.


Appeals

Mississippi is blessed with an excellent appellate system, but navigating it can be difficult.  Jeremy served as a law clerk to former Chief Justice James W. Smith, Jr. of the Mississippi Supreme Court, the highest state court in Mississippi.  Jeremy helped Justice Smith research the law and write several important opinions of the court.  His time as a law clerk gave Jeremy valuable, firsthand knowledge of Mississippi’s appellate court system. Ann Regan worked as an extern to Chief Judge Joe Lee of the MIssissippi Court of Appeals, so she also has extensive knowledge of Mississippi’s appellate system.


Federal Litigation

Sometimes people make a “federal case” out of a family law dispute:  alienation of affection actions, especially recently, have ended up in federal court due to the defendants’ residence outside Mississippi.  Jeremy has years of experience in federal court and is well-versed in the jurisdictional rules involving out of state defendants, particularly in the context of alienation of affection cases.


Antenuptial Agreements

Sometimes, potential spouses and married couples want to fix their financial rights and obligations in advance.  We help negotiate written contracts, called prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, to provide clients with stability and predictability, in the event the worst happens and the marital relationships ultimately dissolve.


Child Support

We deal with Mississippi child support actions on a routine basis.  These claims can be independent or part of a divorce or post-divorce action.  The statutory system has subtle nuances, and we keep on top of them to help our clients get the money their children deserve.


Paternity and Filiation

The Mississippi Uniform Law on Paternity contains protections for mothers, father, and children.  We work with these statutes frequently to advise clients on their potential liability, as well as their rights to collect from the other party on behalf of their child.


Separate Maintenance

If a spouse abandons the home and won’t help with expenses, the court can order him or her to come home or send money.  This action, known as separate maintenance, doesn’t result in dissolution of the marriage.  Instead, it results in a Judgment requiring the abandoning spouse to help the family financially.   In some situations, this request for relief is the right strategy, especially if the spouse who stays doesn’t want a divorce.


Alimony

Old-fashioned permanent alimony, where a spouse is required to pay the ex until he or she remarries or dies, is not the only kind of alimony available in Mississippi.  Other kinds, lump sum, rehabilitative, and reimbursement are also available.  Read more about Alimony on the Mississippi Divorce page.  We help clients determine what kind of alimony fits their circumstances best.


Family Law Consulting

Do you want to get more educated on the Mississippi family law process and the Mississippi court system?  Jeremy has testifed as an expert witness in court regarding MIssissippi’s divorce system. Jeremy is also an adjunct professor at the Mississippi College School of Law, where he teaches Domestic Relations and Current Issues in Family Law; the students at MC Law selected Jeremy Adjunct Professor of the Year for four straight years, a school record. Jeremy is passionate about education.  He is available to speak to individuals and groups to teach them about the legal process in Mississippi’s family courts.

Want to give it a shot on your own?  McNinch Law Firm can provide consulting services, including advice and insight, to help you handle some cases yourself, and if you decide you need us, we can jump in later.  Give us a call to discuss how we can help.


Modification

Generally, a request for modification of an Order or a Judgment asserts that something isn’t working or that there has been a material change of circumstances since the Order or Judgment was entered, and the party filing the request asks for a change, or modification, to fix the problem.  Sometimes, the problem is caused by the language of the Judgment itself, and sometimes it is caused by circumstances of life.

Some of the most common reasons that people have for requesting modification include increases or decrease in child support; visitation changes; and custody changes.

Read more about Problems After Divorce


Contempt

When a person fails to comply with the Judgment of Divorce, the most frequently used action for contempt of court.  The person in violation can be fined monetarily or imprisoned.

Attorneys’ fees are frequently granted when a person is found in contempt, although the judge has discretion in making a ruling on fees.

Read more about Problems After Divorce