Constructive Desertion: When You Just Know

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” T.S. Eliot’s words from his poem “The Hollow Men” can unfortunately describe the end to many marriages. Mississippi law states that desertion of a marriage may act as grounds for a divorce, but the statutory desertion period is one year. When that time period has not been met but there are signs the marriage is ending, courts look to constructive desertion to entitle a party to a divorce. Constructive desertion has been defined by Mississippi courts as conduct that renders the continuance of the marriage unendurable or dangerous to life, health or safety. Benson v. Benson, 608 So.2d 709 (Miss. 1992).

In Benson, the trial court did not grant the parties a divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. The husband alleged that the wife had committed cruel and inhuman treatment by habitual ill-founded accusations, threats and malicious sarcasm, insults and verbal abuse. The trial court found that the martial problems were mostly based on the incompatibility of the parties, which is not a ground for divorce in Mississippi. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court had correctly denied a divorce on cruel and inhuman treatment, but remanded the case for the ground of constructive desertion.

As you can tell by that standard used by the courts, constructive desertion can take many forms. What makes a marriage “unendurable” is different for different people. Mississippi courts have held that inexcusable, long-continued refusal of sexual relations warrants a divorce on the ground of constructive desertion. Tedford v. Tedford, 856 So.2d 753 (2003). As silly as that may sound to some people, this could signal that two spouses have basically become roommates, and the marriage has therefore been deserted.

This conduct may also stem from monetary support issues. If a husband has the means and ability to support his wife, and negligently or willfully does not, then the wife will be justified in severing the marital relationship and leaving the home. If the husband still refuses to support her, then he will be guilty of constructive desertion even though the wife left the house. Deen v. Deen, 856 So.2d 736 (Miss. Ct. App. 2003).

As dramatic as divorces often are, sometimes their end comes with a whimper and not a bang. Sometimes, you just know a marriage has no chance of lasting. Constructive desertion is a ground that many spouses in Mississippi can use to leave a marriage that has not yet reached the statutory time requirement. If you or someone you know is in a marriage that meets the criteria of being unendurable for a reasonable person, or if the person’s life, health or safety is in danger, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. Our office is experienced in courts throughout Mississippi with our full time and energy dedicated to domestic matters. This allows our office to know the nuances of the law, and to provide you with your best representation. Call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at 601-573-7429.

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