In one of our earlier blog posts, The Wade Law Firm, Central Mississippi Family Law Attorney, covered the basic fault grounds for divorce in the state of Mississippi. There are twelve fault grounds, and each is applied differently. So in the next series of blogs, we will cover some of the most common fault grounds that people use to obtain a divorce in Mississippi.
You can find the full text of the Mississippi law covering all of the grounds for divorce in Mississippi Code Section 93-5-1. In the meantime, let’s talk about one common reason couples divorce all over the country – adultery.
Adultery is what most of us know as “cheating.” Although we all know what cheating means, the law treats this topic very carefully. Actions constituting adultery are not always clear cut so each case lives or dies on its specific set of facts and circumstances. If you think you may need a divorce (or need to defend against a divorce) on the grounds of adultery, here’s some basic information you should know.
A Few Facts
Mississippi law defines adultery as “voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with a person other than the offender’s spouse.” A divorce may be granted only to the “innocent spouse” on this ground. That is, the husband or wife who did not cheat. It doesn’t take much to justify a divorce on these grounds in Mississippi. One incident may be enough to justify a divorce. The complaining party must bring forth proof – direct or circumstantial.
Direct proof is just that – direct and obvious. If the unfaithful spouse admits that he or she has cheated, that’s about as direct as it gets. Also, other concrete proof like tape recorded conversations, photos, videos, and text messages may provide direct proof that one spouse has committed adultery.
Of course, since people are usually very secretive about these sorts of things, “Circumstantial Proof” can also prove adultery. Think of this as the writing on the wall. There are two things the innocent spouse must show to prove circumstantial proof:
1. A spouse’s generally adulterous nature – if they’ve cheated many times before, it’s likely the court may find that the guilty spouse did it again. Or, the spouse may be obviously infatuated with someone else.
2. A reasonable opportunity to satisfy that infatuation or adulterous nature.
For example: if the partner suspected of adultery has been talking on the phone with another man or woman, the conversations may show infatuation with someone other than his or her spouse. If the spouse then stays the night with that other person, this may prove opportunity to satisfy the desires and infatuation. Taken together, there is circumstantial proof that adultery occurred.
Since circumstantial proof isn’t as obvious as direct proof, the evidence must be “clear and convincing.” Also, the behavior of the cheating spouse must not have another reasonable explanation.
For example: If the spouse and the other person speak on the phone because they are business partners, and the spouse spent the night because his or her house burned down, there may be a reasonable explanation for the behavior. Similarly, an occasional hug or workplace flirting may not be clear and convincing enough.
Still, even after adultery is proven, many people don’t realize that they may lose entitlement to a divorce based on adultery. This can happen by “Condonation.” If the innocent spouse resumes sexual relations with the guilty spouse even after they know the guilty spouse has been cheating, they have condoned the cheating. Simply put, if you know your spouse has committed adultery, but you sleep with him or her again, the courts assume that you are okay with the cheating. If you are okay with cheating, you won’t be entitled to divorce over it.
So there you have it: the basics of proving (or disproving) adultery. Remember, like the other fault grounds, the person seeking the divorce must prove that the other spouse is at fault. If there is no proof of wrongdoing, there are no grounds for divorce. This is why it is always a good idea to hire an attorney if you find yourself on either side of a divorce. This blog provides only basic information, and an experienced, proven attorney can help you navigate these issues and get the best results.
Divorce and Family Law Attorney Vangela M. Wade has over 18 years of specialized legal experiences and is ready to go to work for you! We are located in the Metro-Jackson area and are prepared to assist clients throughout Mississippi and the greater Mid-South area. If you have any questions, get in touch and see what The Wade Law Firm, PLLC can do to help you.