How Habitual Cruel and Inhuman Treatment Has Changed in Mississippi
Marriages come in many different variations and differ from couple to couple. While “until death do us part” is always the goal when reciting your vows, some marriages, unfortunately, do not work out as those words intended and many marriages end in divorce.
In Mississippi, there are seven grounds for divorce: natural impotency, adultery, being sentenced to prison, desertion of one-year, habitual drunkenness, habitual use of narcotics, and habitual cruel and inhumane treatment. These grounds for divorce are rather self-explanatory in nature… all except “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment.”
What is cruel and inhuman treatment?
As defined by Black’s Law Dictionary 2nd Edition, cruel and inhuman treatment is “[a] grounds for divorce whereby one spouse has treated the other with such great suffering that makes living life together untenable and not bearable.”
As you may have noticed, the legal definition of cruel and inhuman treatment is just as vague as the term “cruel and inhuman treatment.” This is because cruel and inhuman treatment’s true definition resides in the statutes and the courts.
So, what does the law and Judicial System of Mississippi consider “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment?”
In 2017, the Mississippi State Legislature, acknowledging the vagueness of this provision, amended the statutory definition of Mississippi Code Annotated Section 93-5-1 with Section 6 of Senate Bill 2680. As of June 2019, Mississippi Code Annotated Section 93-5-1 provides:
“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.”
Before the passage of this provision, Mississippi Courts required that another witness be able to corroborate allegations of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment and spousal abuse. With the passage of this provision, Mississippi law only requires the testimony of the victim of domestic spousal abuse to make the grounds of habitually cruel and inhuman treatment a viable course of action in a divorce proceeding.
Due to the State Legislature of Mississippi’s revisions to Mississippi Code Annotated Section 93-5-1, it has now become easier for victims of domestic abuse to seek help and to leave a relationship that puts their mental and physical well-being at risk, while not jeopardizing losing everything that they have built in their lives.
*If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse or spousal abuse please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233). If you do not feel safe enough to call, you can get direct help from a trained National Domestic Violence Hotline advocate on their live chat located at www.thehotline.org/help/.
**This article is for the general education purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.