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How do I prove habitual cruelty in a divorce?

On Behalf of | May 10, 2024 | Divorce

If you are planning a divorce in Mississippi, you may find yourself with some unique challenges. One of the main differences between Mississippi and many other states is that if you and your spouse do not agree to get divorced (a no-fault divorce), you must prove one of 12 fault-based grounds for divorce.

One of the most common grounds for divorce is habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. This can be a good default ground if none of the other grounds, such as adultery, bigamy or incest apply to your situation.

What is habitual cruel and inhuman treatment?

Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment is conduct that endangers your life, limb or health or creates a reasonable apprehension of fear and danger. You must also show that your spouse’s actions were so unnatural that it made your marriage revolting.

This behavior must usually be more than one isolated incident to meet the grounds for habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. It must have gone on for a long time or be so frequent that the behavior is now a natural part of your marriage.

When once incident could be enough

However, the seriousness of the behavior is considered. Depending on the circumstances, evidence of one incident could be enough to meet the divorce grounds.

A common example is in a case of domestic violence. A brutal beating by your spouse that leaves you hospitalized may very well be sufficient evidence to prove habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, but your spouse swearing at you one time might not be.

Generally, evidence of physical or sexual abuse is enough to prove habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, but if you do not have that, there are other ways of proving it.

Stalking, verbal threats, emotional abuse, controlling behavior, deviant sexual behavior or financial abuse could all demonstrate habitual cruel or inhuman treatment. The key is having evidence.

Gathering evidence

Pictures, text messages or any other documentation showing your spouse’s behavior may be the evidence you need. Start documenting the evidence early if you plan to use this fault ground for your divorce.

The standard must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. You must show that it is more likely that habitual cruel and inhuman treatment occurred.