Mississippi Family Court Records
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What are Mississippi Family Court Records?
Mississippi family court records contain official details of the litigation processes of Mississippi family courts. These records consist of general court information, such as court summons, action, motions and motion arguments, court opinions and appearance as well as details of evidence filed and decisions made by the court. As per Mississippi public record laws, interested members of the public may access family court records from record custodians which are tasked with maintaining and disseminating court records to eligible persons. Depending on the record and its custodian, eligibility requirements for accessing these records generally varies.
What Cases are Heard by Mississippi Family Courts?
The Mississippi state judiciary consists of 9 courts of varying authorities. Family cases in the state are primarily heard by Mississippi Chancery Courts, which are specialized courts of limited jurisdiction. All 20 Chancery Courts in Mississippi have jurisdiction over disputes pertaining to equity, sanity hearings, and juvenile matters. The family-related cases heard by Chancery courts include:
- Domestic matters pertaining to adoption, child custody, and support as well as guardianships and termination of parental rights
- Matters pertaining to divorce and alimony, separation and annulment
- Child neglect, domestic abuse, and assault
- General equity-related matters, including estate transfers, wills, and trusts pertaining to families.
As per Mississippi state law, court records are generally managed and disseminated by the office of the clerk of courts of the court where the case is heard. As such, Mississippi family court records are maintained by the court clerk of Chancery Courts within the state’s jurisdiction. Where the verdict of the Chancery Court has been appealed at the state Court of Appeals or Supreme Court, then the updated record may also be managed by the court clerk of the applicable appellate court.
What is Included in Mississippi Family Court Records?
Court records are generally developed to provide an official account of court proceedings. As such, Mississippi family court records are designed to contain information pertaining to the litigation process of family-related cases, featuring general case information as well as the final judgment of a court regarding a case. The information detailed on family court records generally includes:
- The personal and identifying information of the plaintiff and defendant (where this is not restricted by state laws)
- General court case information i.e. the case and/or dispute type, the place, and date when the case was filed
- Details of the court’s proceedings including court summons pertaining to the case, a court actions and motions, motion arguments as well as court appearances and witness information
- Evidence filed by both parties, sworn statements and witness testimony
- Relevant documents presented by expert witnesses including child protective services and medical professionals.
- The Court’s final judgment along with any penalties, fines and court-issued rights granted to either party. This may include details of financial settlements and entitlements such as spousal support/alimony child support. Rights to adopt or to retain or relinquish, child custody, any ascribed visitation conditions as well as details of protective orders (where applicable)
- Where either of the parties was held in contempt of the court during the proceeding, family court records may also detail any jail or community service sentences.
Are Family Court Records Public in Mississippi?
Pursuant to Mississippi public record laws members of the public may request access to court records from their respective custodians. However, only records that are deemed public according to the state’s judicial laws can be accessed by the public. This includes all Mississippi family court records which are considered public information.
The records available to the public typically include details of court actions and motions as well as the verdict and in some cases, the financial settlements and court-instituted rights. However, the right of public access to Mississippi family court records is not absolute. The following records are exempt from public dissemination:
- All records of court proceedings in which the suit/charges have been nolle pressed.
- Any information that has been restricted, sealed or expunged following a court order or request of the plaintiff and/or the defendant (depending on the case type)
- Any documents or report filed by institutions such as child protective services, mental health specialists and selected expert witnesses
- Personal/identifying information of minors, children, juveniles and assault victims
- Financial and banking information of persons involved in the suit—i.e. inventories, bank statements and/or account numbers
- The financial identities of either of the parties including their social security number or credit card numbers.
In accordance with Mississippi state laws, the aforementioned information/records are only available to selected persons. While requestors may access public records without protocol, confidential records are only accessible to persons with specific legal authorities.
How Do I Get Family Court Records in Mississippi?
Pursuant to Mississippi public record laws, family court records can be made available to interested persons upon request. Given the unique processes employed by most judicial districts, the requirements for accessing these records generally varies depending on the case and its custodian. However, most records can be obtained by state-managed or third party online resources, by making in-person requests to the courthouse where the case was heard and by making mail-in queries to the appropriate record custodian.
How to Obtain Mississippi Family Court Records Online
The Mississippi state judiciary offers online access to court records through the state’s Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) system. The system allows interested members of the public to access various repositories housing records from the Court of Appeals and Supreme Courts as well as those records generated managed by local courts in various judicial districts of the state.
In order to use the MEC requestors must first confirm the location of a record of interest. Users may then proceed to select the appropriate court from the drop-down bar of the MEC home page, and then the user will be redirected to the document filing system of the selected court/judicial district. All requestors are required to complete the mandatory MEC registration on the signup page. And pay the $10 annual subscription fee by card or check.
Upon completing their registration, registrants will be provided with the login information required to access the system. Users may then proceed to find their desired record by conducting a name-based search or by looking up the record by case number.
Name-based searches require the requesting party to provide the full names of either or both parties involved in the case and their date of birth. Where only partial information is known, wild card searches can be conducted using a combination of the known information and the percentage sign (%) and/or the underscore (_). On the other hand, case number searches require the requestor to provide the case number for this search, as well as the approximate date the case was filed and/or heard.
In addition to the above, some, but not all of Mississippi trial courts and court clerks maintain independent websites and online repositories with which records can be retrieved. Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels
Family Court Records can include marriage records and Mississippi divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.
How to Make in-person Requests for Mississippi Family Records
Pursuant to Mississippi public record laws, the distribution of confidential court case information through public electronically accessible repositories is prohibited. As such family court records that are confidential or sealed by the court are not accessible. To request Mississippi family court records in person, the requestor must:
Locate the Record Custodian
Family court records are typically generated and maintained by the court clerk in which the case was heard. As such in-person court record requests require the requestor locate and confirm the judicial district in which the suit was filed and the court which heard the case.
Generally, the location of a Mississippi family court record is determined by the case type and the most current status of the case. Where a verdict has been issued and reviewed by an appellate court, records of such cases are updated and maintained by the appellate court which is usually Mississippi’s Court of Appeals or State Supreme Court. Information regarding the state’s various courts and the contact details of their respective court clerks can be obtained using the resources available on the Mississippi Courts website.
Collect the Required Information
Upon confirming the location of the desired record in the judicial district where the case was heard, the requesting party may proceed to contact the record custodian i.e. the clerk of courts for information regarding the court’s record retrieval process. While the requirements for record retrieval generally varies from court to court and may depend on the case, persons seeking access to family court records are often required to provide all the details needed to facilitate record searches. This information typically includes the full name(s) of either or both of the parties involved, the case file number of the record (if known) and the approximate date on which the case was filed/heard. In selected instances, requestors may also need to provide the name of any of the attorneys involved in the case.
Visit the Court Record Custodian
Most requestors may self serve using the public-access computer terminals available at most courthouses. However, if the requestor requires confidential and/or certified records, the court clerk will process the search and authenticate the document. All requests to the office of the court clerk must be made during official working hours, and requestors are often usually required to complete an application indicating the required information as well as the personal and contact details of the requesting party.
Provide Identification and Fee Requirements
To obtain a record, requestors are required to confirm their eligibility by presenting a government-issued photo ID. In some cases, requestors are also charged a nominal fee to cover search/copy costs depending on the requested record. Where this is the case, the court clerk will only proceed with the search after the fee and ID requirements have been met. Additionally, records that are confidential are usually restricted to persons with specific legal authorities. As such, persons interested in obtaining confidential records must also provide a court-issued order/subpoena along with the ID and fees. Where the requestor cannot provide a photo ID, other documents may serve as alternative forms of ID—however, this is the prerogative of the record custodian.
How to Access Mississippi Family Court Records via Mail
Mississippi family court records can also be requested and obtained via U.S. mail. To obtain a record via mail, interested persons are required to prepare a written request to be delivered to the applicable court clerk. Most records are unique and the requirements for accessing these records depend on the case type and the judicial district where the case was heard. As such, requestors are advised to contact the record custodian for information regarding the requirements of the court prior to preparing a request. Most requestors will be required to provide the following information in writing:
- The full name and contact information of either or both parties involved in the case
- General case information including the place/date on which the case was heard
- The case file number, docket number and or appellate case number of the record (if applicable)
- The names of the attorney involved and in some cases, their state bar number
- The personal and contact information of the requesting party.
- General information regarding appellate reviews to the original verdict (if applicable)
Additionally, requesters may be required to enclose a photocopy of their government-issued photo ID, a payment to cover search/copy fees in cheque or money order form as well as a stamped, self-addressed envelope with which to receive the requested record.
Specialized Family Court Records
In addition to court records, Mississippi Family courts generate and issue a variety of official documents indicating court decrees and court-issued rights. They often support claims of rights or verdicts issued by family courts within the state. These documents include decrees of annulment, separation, and divorce, alimony and child support, adoption and child custody as well as authorization for will and trust fund execution. Like court records, some of these documents may be made available to interested and eligible persons.
How to Obtain Mississippi Adoption Records
While records of adoptions finalized prior to 1955 are deemed open records and found in the county of the adoptive parents, the state of Mississippi established an Adoption Confidentiality Act which prohibits the dissemination of records of subsequent adoptions without the required legal authorities.
As per Mississippi state law, the state Bureau of Vital Statistics maintains a centralized repository of all adoption records of the state. Following the provisions of Section 93–17–205 of Mississippi public record laws, adoptees above 21 may request identifying or non-identifying information of either or both of their birth parents unless the birth parent has requested the prohibition of the release of this information.
Upon locating a birth parent(s) of the requesting adoptee, Mississippi law requires that they are notified of the nature of the information requested by the adoptee, the date on which the request was made and the rights of the birth parents to consent or refuse the dissemination of the requested information. If the birth parent authorizes the release of the information, the requested information shall be disclosed to the adoptee.
How Do I Access Divorce Records in Mississippi
Mississippi divorce records are generally maintained by the chancery clerk in the county where the divorce was granted. In the state of Mississippi, these records are public information and can be obtained by interested members of the public upon request. To obtain a divorce record, interested persons may query the chancery clerk’s office in the county where the divorce was issued. All requesters will be required to provide sufficient information regarding the record of interest. This includes the full names of the parties involved as well as the date and place where the divorce was issued. Where the record has been deemed confidential by request of the parties involved, the requestor must obtain written permission from either or both parties to access the record.
Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.