There is an attempt in the Legislature to make some modest reforms to Mississippi divorce law. But such efforts have failed before, as well as a measure to generate a "no-fault" divorce based on length of parting has already been watered down early in the legislative process this session.
Finding a divorce is expensive and hard. Lawmakers along with the religious lobby in this Bible Belt state have already been reluctant to make it easier or more affordable, mainly in efforts to uphold sanctity and the institution of marriage. Yet, Mississippi still ranks continually close to the top of states in its divorce rate — seventh highest in one recent study.
Experts say Mississippi's antiquated divorce laws altered over a century, put low-income people at a disadvantage — specially homemakers who actually don't have resources and a long court battle to fight. The state's total market likely hurts, clog price citizens and the courts.
And worse, they trap some spouses and children in situations that are risky and abusive.
"It made my skin creep," Elizabeth Freels said after having an attorney first clarified Mississippi's divorce laws and procedures to her.
Should you need one, in Saudi Arabia you can get a divorce. Here, you're at the mercy of somebody else."
Concerned about stability for the couple's three kids and lacking resources, Freels dwelt with her erstwhile husband in Brookhaven. She describes this as an "under the exact same roof, but a 'War of the Roses' sort of deal."
In 2005, Elizabeth Freels moved to Clinton left and filed for divorce. She said her husband was not working or paying child support, and refused to consent to sell their house, so she "incurred enormous expense."
But David Freels wouldn't agree to a divorce.
"I didn't want to lose her, or the kids," David Freels said lately. "… If she would experienced reasons to get a divorce, I'd have gracefully bowed my head and given her a divorce."
David Freels said Elizabeth was initially asking in support for $300 a month per kid. He said he was "almost displaced" and jobless. "I refused to give her a divorce on irreconcilable differences because she never tried to accommodate.
Elizabeth Freels said she waited until her youngest child was off to school, did her analysis on other states' laws, packed up and moved to Washington state. She left friends and also a good job. She left a home she'd purchased.
"I couldn't sell it then because the 'innocent partner law' said I could not sell it without him signing even though he wasn't on the title or mortgage," she said.
"They've favorable divorce laws. A plaintiff can file for divorce and get one. I hired an attorney just in case. She said when the judge looked at the papers and saw June of 2005, he said, 'Do Not you mean 2015?' He then saw I 'd moved from Mississippi and said, 'Oh, that clarifies it.'"
Last summer, David Freels was served with documents from Washington. Instead he let the 90 days expire, after which the divorce was final, although he explained he could have contested the divorce.
Elizabeth Freels said she'd decided quite a while back not to even attempt for child support while its needed by divorced singles.