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Mississippi Won't Make Divorce Easier, Despite Some Voter Wishes

Mississippi State Capitol. Photo courtesy Ken Lund.

According to the Associated Press, Senate Bill 2703 , which passed the Mississippi Senate, wasn’t taken up Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee Division B at a deadline for legislation to advance.
The bill would have made  the process of getting a divorce much easier in some situations.
The Clarion-Ledger.com reported that, currently in Mississippi, divorces can be granted on twelve grounds, including adultery and abandonment, but filing on grounds of domestic abuse is difficult.
“This bill alters one of the current grounds for divorce by adding domestic abuse as a specific grounds for divorce,” says state senator Sally Doty, one of the sponsors of the bill.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, divorce rates have decreased in Mississippi over the last few years. 

 

“We are a very conservative, religious state, and no member of the Legislature wants to be seen as promoting divorce,” says Doty. “It is my hope that all couples can have long, healthy marriages. Unfortunately, the reality is that domestic abuse occurs much more than we want to talk about in Mississippi.”
Some citizens of Mississippi agree with Doty.
“I feel like people should not go so quickly to get a divorce. If you made the life changing decision to marry someone and choose them to potentially be your partner for the rest of your life, then that person is worth fighting for,” says Kreneice Mcgee, an Oxford resident and newlywed. “However, things like domestic abuse and infidelity should be the only acceptable reasons for divorce.
Doty says she’s heard from many people who support the new law.
“My email has been flooded with heart-wrenching stories of women and men who have spent tens of thousands of dollars and spent 4 or 5 years trying to get a divorce,” says Senator Doty. “Usually, one spouse does not want to divide the financial assets, so they create delay and additional costs for the other spouse.”
A survey from family-law.lawyers.com states the average divorce in Mississippi costs $11,000, including $8,700 in attorneys’ fees. With the average hourly rate for attorneys in Mississippi at $210, attorneys’ fees are a significant chunk of the cost of divorce for those who hire attorneys.
According to divorce attorney Benjamin David Murphy, divorce proceedings can become overwhelming.
“It can a very difficult process if both parties are not willing to cooperate and try their best to make the negotiations as painless as possible because it is already a pain within itself,” says Murphy. “Not to mention costs go up the longer the process may take and sometimes these things never get up off the ground.”
Doty thinks the bill is right for Mississippi citizens.
“This bill eases the extremely high standard of ‘habitual cruel and inhumane treatment’ and sends a message to victims of domestic abuse that there is a way out of an abusive marriage,” says Doty.
Story contributed by Kyra Henderson, khenders@go.olemiss.edu.

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