PR 06205.027 Mississippi
A. PR 01-051 Bobbie J. Y~, SSN ~ Effective Date of Divorce in Mississippi
DATE: August 7, 2000
A divorce is not final in Mississippi until the court has entered a judgment as to disputed child custody and maintenance and/or property rights.
This is in response to your memorandum dated May 22, 2000, requesting an opinion regarding the effective date of divorce in Mississippi. Sandra E. Y~ and Summer B. Y~ were entitled to benefits effective January 1996 as the spouse (with child in care) and stepchild, respectively, on the record of Bobby J. Y~. Sandra and Bobby were divorced in Mississippi in January 1999. Sandra's benefits were terminated that month, and Summer's benefits were terminated the following month. Sandra's attorney protested the termination dates. He said the divorce was not final under Mississippi law until May 10, 1999, the date the judge equitably distributed the property between the parties.
Our research reveals that by Mississippi statute, parties to a divorce proceeding may consent to a divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences, and permit the court to decide issues of custody and maintenance of children and/or property rights on which the parties are unable to agree. Miss. Stat. Ann. ' 93-5-2(3). However, the statute provides the court's decision on these issues is the lawful and binding judgment, and that no divorce can be granted until all matters in dispute have been adjudicated and included in the judgment. Thus, it appears that a divorce is not final in Mississippi until the court has entered a judgment as to disputed child custody and maintenance and/or property rights.
In Johnston v. Johnston, 722 So. 2d 453 (Miss. 1998), the court held the trial court erred in granting a "divorce absolute" on the grounds of irreconcilable differences before the final adjudication of property rights. This was also the holding in Rounsaville v. Rounsaville, 732 So. 2d 909 (Miss. 1999).
Although, in this case, the court entered a "Final Judgment of Divorce" on January 12, 1999, and appeared to resolve all property issues, Sandra filed a motion to set aside the judgment. The court granted Sandra's motion on January 14, 1999, granted the divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, and set a hearing on the issues of division of marital assets and property settlement. In our opinion, the parties' divorce was not final under Mississippi law until May 10, 1999, the date the court entered its order equitably distributing the property between the parties.