Separate maintenance is generally awarded to a spouse who is not at fault in the separation of the parties and is financially dependent on the other spouse. The spouse seeking the award does not have to be “totally blameless” in the separation; however, his or her conduct could not have materially contributed to the separation. Separate maintenance is generally applicable in situations where one spouse wants to remain married, but the other refuses to reconcile and has moved out of the marital home. It is essentially a judicial command to the spouse responsible for the separation to either move back into the marital home or provide support to their spouse until the marriage is reconciled. Additionally, separate maintenance awards are generally terminated upon the reconciliation of the marriage, the death of either spouse, the divorce of the parties, or if the payor makes a genuine offer of reconciliation and the recipient refuses.
In many states, there is no need for separate maintenance proceedings because of the enactment of “true no-fault” divorce proceedings where only one spouse’s consent is required to obtain a divorce. Unfortunately, in our state, both parties must consent to a divorce unless the divorce is granted on fault grounds. In some cases fault grounds are non-existent or difficult to prove. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a couple to live separately for quite sometime without any prospect for divorce, thus in Mississippi, separate maintenance remains a viable cause of action.