Tag Archives: Cruelty

Don’t be Cruel.

Elvis sang it well. “Don’t be cruel…”

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Mississippi law was recently changed to specifically include spousal domestic abuse as a fault ground within the already existing habitual cruel and inhuman treatment fault ground. Below is the statute.

Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-1
§ 93-5-1. Causes allowed

Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, including spousal domestic abuse.

Spousal domestic abuse may be established through the reliable testimony of a single credible witness, who may be the injured party, and includes, but is not limited to: That the injured party’s spouse attempted to cause, or purposely, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to the injured party, or that the injured party’s spouse attempted by physical menace to put the injured party in fear of imminent serious bodily harm; or That the injured party’s spouse engaged in a pattern of behavior against the injured party of threats or intimidation, emotional or verbal abuse, forced isolation, sexual extortion or sexual abuse, or stalking or aggravated stalking as defined in Section 97-3-107, if the pattern of behavior rises above the level of unkindness or rudeness or incompatibility or want of affection.

This change is primarily significant for a few reasons. It changed the corroboration requirement. Previously it required testimony and/or evidence not only from the victim but also from another witness or source, such as a third-party or the admission of police or medical records. Now, if the Judge finds the victim/witness credible the Court may grant the award of a fault based divorce.

Additionally, the statute specifically provides for a fault based divorce to be granted based on abuse other than physical, including emotional, verbal, sexual, and stalking behavior.

These are significant and welcomed changes in Mississippi law. More info on fault grounds can be read here.

Matthew Thompson is a divorce attorney in Mississippi. Only two states in the Country still require fault grounds for a divorce if the parties cannot agree to all issues; Mississippi and South Dakota.

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Fault Grounds for Divorce in Mississippi: Updated!

The Mississippi Legislature amended the Fault Grounds for divorce last term to include spousal domestic violence and tweaked the corroboration requirement. The current Fault Grounds for Divorce are below. You only need one.

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§ 93-5-1. Causes for divorce

  • Divorces from the bonds of matrimony may be decreed to the injured party for any one or more of the following twelve (12) causes:
    • First.  Natural impotency.
    • Second.  Adultery, unless it should appear that it was committed by collusion of the parties for the purpose of procuring a divorce, or unless the parties cohabited after a knowledge by complainant of the adultery.
    • Third.  Being Sentenced to any Penitentiary, and not pardoned before being sent there.
    • Fourth.  Willful, Continued and Obstinate Desertion for the space of one (1) year.
    • Fifth.  Habitual Drunkenness.
    • Sixth.  Habitual and Excessive use of Opium, Morphine or other like Drug.
    • Seventh.  Habitual Cruel and Inhuman Treatment, including Spousal Domestic Abuse.

   Spousal Domestic Abuse may be established through the reliable testimony of a single credible witness, who may be the injured party, and includes, but is not limited to:

   That the injured party’s spouse attempted to cause, or purposely, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to the injured party, or that the injured party’s spouse attempted by physical menace to put the injured party in fear of imminent serious bodily harm; or

   That the injured party’s spouse engaged in a pattern of behavior against the injured party of threats or intimidation, emotional or verbal abuse, forced isolation, sexual extortion or sexual abuse, or stalking or aggravated stalking as defined in Section 97-3-107, if the pattern of behavior rises above the level of unkindness or rudeness or incompatibility or want of affection.

  • Eighth.  Having Mental Illness or an intellectual disability at the time of marriage, if the party complaining did not know of that infirmity.
  • Ninth.  Marriage to some other Person at the time of the pretended marriage between the parties.
  • Tenth.  Pregnancy of the wife by another Person at the time of the marriage, if the husband did not know of the pregnancy.
  • Eleventh.  Either party may have a divorce if they are Related to each other within the Degrees of Kindred between whom marriage is prohibited by law.
  • Twelfth.  Incurable Mental Illness. However, no divorce shall be granted upon this ground unless the party with mental illness has been under regular treatment for mental illness and causes thereof, confined in an institution for persons with mental illness for a period of at least three (3) years immediately preceding the commencement of the action… (see statute for complete description).

Clarion-Ledger: Protecting families, or prolonging misery?

Protecting families, or prolonging misery?

Matthew Thompson is a Mississippi family law attorney and professor, and having difficult, drawn-out and costly divorces would be good for his pocketbook.

But Thompson supports reform and changes to divorce laws, “even though it’s against my own self interests.”

“The current laws make it expensive, and in some instances, impossible to get a divorce,” said Thompson, whose firm focuses on family law statewide and who is a professor teaching domestic relations at Mississippi College’s law school.

Thompson said the Legislature’s recent divorce law reform, removing a corroboration requirement for abused spouses, is a needed change.

“Our law has required cruelty claims be corroborated with evidence beyond that of the victim’s testimony,” Thompson said. “… Even if the court believed you, you had to have a neighbor, family member, police report or picture, or you didn’t have corroboration … Now, if the court finds the victim truthful and credible, the court can accept that. If you take a step back and think, that makes sense. Our judges have always been the lie detector, always the barometer of whether someone was credible.

“There is some form of abuse in a vast number of divorce cases,” Thompson said. “Not every one, but a lot of them. When you drill down and include physical, mental, emotional, verbal abuse — It’s a significant number of cases. We as human beings treat the people we are supposed to love the most the worst.”

Thompson said he supports Mississippi creating a “no-fault” ground for divorce. South Dakota is the only other state without such a ground. He said opposition to this change, from those saying it will weaken the sanctity of marriage and increase divorces, is misguided. In practice, Mississippi’s lack of a no-fault ground allows one spouse to hold up a divorce, sometimes for years.

“The idea behind making it difficult to get a divorce is that Mississippi is promoting marriage,” Thompson said. “But when you go 10 years and it costs tens of thousands of dollars — those aren’t intact families trying to get back together.

“Our law promotes divorce blackmail,” Thompson said. “… You have to pay what I say, or agree to what I want, or I won’t agree to a divorce … You have a fundamental, constitutional right to marriage, according to (a U.S. Supreme Court ruling). Shouldn’t you have a fundamental right to a divorce? I guess the counter to that is that you don’t have to get married.”

Thompson said some of the moral and religious arguments focused on divorce policies should be focused on the front-end, marriage policies.

“Our state has made it phenomenally easy to get into a marriage,” Thompson said. “There used to be a three-day wait, used to be a blood test requirement. But now you just go to the circuit clerk and pay $25.

“Studies show having mom and dad happily married and living together is what’s best for children and families,” Thompson said. “Having mom and dad get along and living separately would be second best. Mom and dad living together and fighting and being miserable, whether it’s violent or just cold war, that’s not the best. If this is really about protecting families, there are ways to do that, but still have an appropriate and reasonable means to get out of a marriage. It shouldn’t take a beating or physical violence to get there.”

Contact Geoff Pender at 601-961-7266 or gpender@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter.