Mark Chinn | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mark Chinn


Jackson lawyer Mark Chinn believes divorce doesn't have to tear families apart.

Yes, he's a divorce lawyer, but if Mark Chinn has his way, that job description will sound less like a slur and more like an honor. Chinn, 56, wants to move his profession away from the litigious, take-no-prisoners mentality it currently holds to a more collaborative approach that seeks to heal families even as it separates them.

"My experience is that the way family law is being handled in many places around the country is just about a disgrace," Chinn told the Jackson Free Press. "Families are being put through unecessary litigation and expense. Any divorce lawyer will tell you that 95 out of 100 cases do not go to trial. Lawyers in the system allow people to endure the process many times up until the very last minute, and then the cases are settled."

Chinn advocates a method called constructive divorce, which treats litigation as a last resort and instead seeks resolution of a couple's differences through mediation and negotation. This less adversarial method costs less and takes less time than a divorce proceeding in court, Chinn said.

"We think that the delay and expense that people are put through in the divorce process is just about inexcusable," Chinn said. "We like to handle our cases in a way that there's a family left standing, even though there may not be a marriage."

Chinn published a book about constructive divorce in 2006 and has written on the topic for The Mississippi Lawyer, the Mississippi Bar Association's magazine. Divorce Magazine also recently named Chinn to its advisory board. His firm, Chinn & Associates, is launching an outreach program, called "Work It Out Mississippi," promoting and offering mediation for couples with family law problems.

Chinn was born in Jackson, but moved with his family Chicago when he was 5. Still, he spent summers with relatives in McComb and knew that he belonged in Mississippi.

"I just grew up believing this is where I wanted to live," Chinn said. "This was who I am."

Chinn lives in Jackson with his wife Cathy, an interior designer. They have four daughters, two of whom are school age and athletes.

"My number one goal in life right now seems to be just getting to the next game," Chinn said.

Chinn received his law degree from the University of Mississippi and has practiced law in Jackson for 31 years, and with his own firm since 1988.

"The thing that enjoy most about being a lawyer is that time I get to spend with my client, usually in the initial interview," Chinn said. "I have the opportunity to hear about their problem, and to see if I can—through my knowledge of law—give them options (that) empower them to create the kind of life they want."

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