Our Divorce Lawyer in Florence, MS,
Can Get You Through the Process
Ending your marriage can be very difficult, but it need not be that way, especially with the help of a divorce lawyer in Florence, MS. If both sides want to make the best of things, a divorce will be just another phase of your life. Ringer, Lingold & Spencer helps our clients get through the divorce in the best position possible, allowing them to start a new chapter in their lives.
Mississippi law considers marriage a civil contract. Both parties agree to certain rights and obligations. If a marriage fails, divorce is the judicial decree which ends the legal relationship. If both sides agree to terms on the many issues they face, a judge’s decisions won’t be needed because the parties made the decisions and took control of the situation. It is a far better outcome than the time, energy, expense, and emotional cost of having a trial to decide your and your family’s future.
Our Divorce Attorney in Florence Can Help You Convince a Judge to Grant a Divorce
The divorce process starts when a divorce attorney in Florence files a Complaint for Divorce. It must claim at least one fault-based ground for divorce and/or irreconcilable differences. If irreconcilable differences is the reason given, this must be agreed to by both spouses (even if they don’t agree on how to resolve important issues). This is Mississippi’s version of a “no fault” divorce.
If the spouse who was sued (the defendant) doesn’t want a divorce, the spouse filing the complaint (the plaintiff) must claim and prove at least one of the following fault-based grounds:
- Natural impotency
- The spouse was sentenced to any prison and wasn’t pardoned before going there
- Willful, continued desertion for at least a year
- Habitual drunkenness
- Habitual and excessive use of opium, morphine, or other like drugs
- Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment
- Insanity or idiocy during the marriage, if the other spouse didn’t know of it at the start
- Marriage to another when the two allegedly married (bigamy)
- Pregnant by another person at the time of the marriage, if the husband was unaware of the pregnancy
- The spouses are related to each other enough to make the marriage illegal (incest)
- Incurable insanity and the defendant has been confined in an institution for at least three years immediately before the divorce filing.
Desertion must be without consent, just cause, excuse, or intention to return. It can occur even if the spouses lived together if they live as strangers and the alleged deserter intends to end the marriage. The deserted spouse must not have agreed to the spouse’s leaving. If the deserting spouse tries in good faith to return and is rejected, the one refusing the return is usually considered the deserter.
Habitual and excessive drunkenness or drug use requires showing clear and convincing evidence that the spouse has these problems, negatively impacting the marriage, and that the defendant is irresponsible, reckless, unfit, and unable to perform marital duties and responsibilities.
The most common ground cited is habitual cruel and inhuman treatment; it endangers life, limb, health, or creates a reasonable fear of such danger; it covers actions that make the marriage revolting to an innocent spouse. To succeed on these grounds, the plaintiff must prove the defendant engaged in these acts which took place over time. There may have been physical beatings or otherwise an adverse physical impact on the victim.
If you file an at-fault divorce, you have the plaintiff’s burden of proof. If you don’t succeed, you won’t get a divorce. To improve your chances, you need to document the problem, have witnesses, and produce credible evidence. With the help of a divorce attorney in Florence from Ringer, Lingold & Spencer we can build evidence that will support your divorce complaint before it’s filed.
Our Florence Divorce Lawyer Can Argue to the Judge How Property Should Be Divided
The court will “equitably distribute” marital assets, property, and debt based on what is determined to be fair. The first step is deciding what’s marital or separate. If it’s separate, it’s not divided.
Generally, the property you buy or receive while you’re married is marital property. What you owned before the marriage is separate property and is not divided, with some exceptions. That dividing line can be tricky at times, which is why a Florence divorce lawyer is needed to represent your interests.
Marital assets and debts probably won’t be divided equally. The judge will consider many factors when deciding who should get what, including:
- Each party’s contributions to accumulating marital property
- A spouse’s waste or disposal of marital property
- The market and emotional values of the property
- The value of each side’s separate property
- Tax or other economic consequences of dividing the property
- How much the award of property may end the need for alimony
- Each party’s need for financial security.
Divorce Lawyers Want the Best for Their Clients, Including Whether Alimony Will Be Paid or Not
Alimony (or spousal support), if the parties don’t agree, will be awarded based on the recipient’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. Alimony may be granted if one party supported the other through his or her education. A spouse may also get support if he or she stayed at home to care for children and/or support the other person’s career.
Divorce lawyers are there to try to get what helps their client the most: a lump sum or periodic payments. The lump sum is a fixed amount paid in a single payment or paid over time. It can’t be changed, and death or marriage by the receiving spouse has no impact. Periodic payments can change. The obligation to pay ends when either spouse dies or the receiving spouse lives with or marries another.
A judge considers many issues when deciding the alimony amount, including:
- Maintaining living standards
- The spouses’ health and ability to earn income
- Both parties’ sources of income
- The reasonable needs of the receiving spouse and children
- The necessary living expenses of the paying spouse
- Their estimated income taxes.
Our Divorce Attorneys Explain How Judges Make Custody Decisions
If divorcing parents can’t agree on child custody, the judge makes the decision based on the child’s best interest. Joint legal custody typically is awarded in such cases. In Mississippi, legal custody differs from joint custody. A parent with legal custody has decision-making rights which pertain to all significant aspects of a child’s life, such as their healthcare and education. When a child is in the care of and lives with a parent, that parent has physical custody.
If a parent is unwilling or unable to care for the child, they may only have legal custody which grants them the right to spend time with and visit the child. In this case, the other parent may have sole physical custody. Should an agreement be reached in which the judge determines it is in the best interest of the child to award joint physical custody then the child will spend significant time living with each parent. In this situation, the judge may award both joint legal and physical custody. In Mississippi, judges commonly award joint legal custody, but joint physical custody is not awarded as often.
There are many factors a judge can consider when deciding what parent gets which rights. Judges look at the whole picture and decide what’s in the best interest of the child. One standard rule is to keep siblings together. A child 12 or older may tell the judge his or her preference, if both parents are fit. But the judge makes the final decision.
How Much Child Support Will Be Paid?
Child custody impacts child support. Both parents must support the child, but only the noncustodial parent (the one spending less than half the time with the child) pays child support. The custodial parent who mostly lives with the child supports them, too, but with money spent directly on the child.
The duty to pay child support continues until the child reaches age 21, or becomes legally emancipated, if that happens before the child turns 21. Examples of emancipation are when a child gets adopted by another party, gets married, or enters the military.
The amount each parent pays depends on their income and the number of children needing support. Mississippi sets a base support amount in its child support guidelines. The final support amount can differ because of the child’s needs (including medical care) and family finances. A judge can order more or less than the guidelines based on the parties’ and child’s needs. Divorce attorneys will push and pull the judge in their client’s direction on these issues.
Where and When Are Divorces Filed?
Divorces are filed in Chancery Court, and each county has its own. At least one spouse must have lived in Mississippi for six months before a divorce filing, unless at least one spouse is a member of the military. A divorce based on a fault ground is properly filed in the county where:
- The defendant lives, resides or may be found, or
- The parties lived when they separated, if the plaintiff lives there, or
- The plaintiff lives, if the defendant isn’t a Mississippi resident.
Divorces filed due to irreconcilable differences can be filed in the county where either party lives. Such a filing requires a 60-day waiting period if the parties resolved all the issues between them within that time and the court has approved the property settlement agreement. The fault grounds have no waiting period, but the defendant must get notice at least 30 days before the trial.