Divorce in Mississippi: 4 Elements of Cruel and Inhumane Treatment


Welcome to The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, Mississippi Family Law & Divorce Attorney blog site. If you’ve found yourself on our site, you’re at the right place to get a basic primer on important family law issues in Mississippi. Here, you’ll find the latest in our mini-series on the most common fault grounds of divorce in this state.

Today we will discuss “Cruel and Inhumane Treatment.” You can find the text of this fault ground in Mississippi Code Annotated at § 93-5-1, but here are a few key points.

First, like all fault grounds for divorce, the burden is on the spouse seeking the divorce to prove that the guilty spouse has done something wrong. The court must find that cruel and inhumane treatment is proven by “a preponderance of the evidence.” Loosely speaking, this means that the majority of the evidence must show that cruel and inhumane treatment has taken place.

When it’s time for the court to hear the evidence, the spouse seeking divorce must prove four elements have been met:

  1. Cruel Conduct
  2. Causal Connection
  3. Appropriate Timing
  4. Corroboration

Without proving all four of these factors, a divorce will not be granted on this specific ground.

  1. The Mississippi Supreme Court defined Cruel and Inhumane Conduct way back in 1930. Here’s a simplified version: The conduct must endanger life, limb, health OR create a reasonable fear of this kind of danger so that continuance of the marital relationship is unsafe for the innocent spouse.

Also, the conduct may be so unnatural and infamous that the marriage becomes revolting to the innocent spouse and he or she can no longer take part in the marriage. The obvious examples of cruel and inhumane conduct here are constant threats of violence, physical assaults, and similar mistreatment of children and relatives, but more may apply.

  1. Causal Connection requires that the guilty spouse’s conduct was the proximate cause of the couple’s separation. Basically, the spouse seeking a divorce must show that the poor conduct of the guilty spouse is the primary reason for the physical or emotional harm caused. This is harder to prove when the harm to the innocent spouse is emotional rather than physical, but it is possible (hence why you should always consult with a lawyer.)
  2. The Timing element requires that the guilty spouse’s cruel and inhumane conduct took place during the marriage. There are other concerns, as well. For example, one instance of abuse will likely not be enough to justify ending a 21 year marriage on these fault grounds. Also, if the mistreatment took place for a long time, yet it has not happened again during the past three years, the timing element might not be met.
  3. Finally, there must be Corroboration of the evidence. Someone other than the innocent spouse must also testify that the cruel treatment has taken place. Friends, family, healthcare employees, or other professionals often provide corroborating evidence. For example, a daughter may testify that she has seen one spouse assaulting and hurting the other. In another scenario, a psychiatrist may testify to the court that the innocent spouse is suffering from mental issues that are consistent with someone who has been severely emotionally abused.

If the spouse who wants a divorce can prove all four of these elements, he or she will likely be entitled to a divorce on the grounds of Cruel and Inhumane Treatment. Again, this blog only covers the basics of this fault ground, and you should consult with an attorney if you think you may need a divorce on these grounds.

Are you looking for a Divorce Attorney in Mississippi? Get in touch with me, Vangela M. Wade at The Wade Law Firm in Jackson, MS. With more than 18 years of legal practice and knowledge of Mississippi Family Law, The Wade Law Firm, PLLC is committed to serving all of our clients with the utmost expertise, diligence, and care and are here to help you navigate through difficult legal matters.

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