Is There a Desertion Divorce Law in Mississippi?

By Heather Frances J.D.

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Mississippi law permits spouses to obtain a divorce based on desertion, but only under certain circumstances. If your spouse leaves you without your consent, you may feel deserted, but to obtain a divorce based on his desertion, you must be able to prove your spouse’s behavior was "willful, continued and obstinate."


Mississippi courts can only grant your divorce if you provide grounds, or a reason, for the divorce. Mississippi offers twelve possible grounds for fault-based divorce: impotence, adultery, incarceration, desertion, habitual drunkenness, habitual drug use, cruelty, mental illness, bigamy, pregnancy by someone else at the time of the marriage, blood relationship to your spouse, and insanity at the time of marriage. Mississippi courts can also grant a no-fault divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” between you and your spouse, but only if you both agree to the divorce.

Desertion as Grounds

In Mississippi, the ground of desertion is more than just your spouse moving out. His absence must last continuously for at least a year and the desertion must be “willful, continued and obstinate.” This may include your spouse's refusal to support or help you financially. Additionally, your spouse must intend to leave the marriage, not just to physically leave, so if your spouse moved for work purposes and intends to return, his absence may not qualify as desertion.

Proving Desertion

If you accuse your spouse of deserting you, you must be able to prove it by a preponderance of evidence, which means you must prove it is more likely than not that your spouse deserted you. You must also prove the desertion lasted at least a year, your spouse left with the intention of ending your marriage and you did not consent to the separation. If you cannot prove all of these things through testimony, documents or other evidence, the court cannot grant you a divorce based on desertion grounds.

Reconciliation and Constructive Desertion

In Mississippi, your spouse can end the desertion by offering to reconcile with you, so if he offers to reconcile within one year of leaving, you cannot qualify for divorce based on desertion. If you leave your home to avoid violent or other extremely abusive conduct, you may still qualify as the deserted spouse even though you were the one who left. This is called constructive desertion.