Does Marital Misconduct Really Alter the Outcome of a Divorce in Mississippi?

Despite the fact that all states have now implemented the “no-fault” divorce, this does not mean that spouses engaging in marital misconduct in Mississippi won’t have to answer for that misbehavior in some way. Particularly regarding division of property, awards of spousal support or awards of attorney’s fees, the “victim” spouse may have a real advantage over the spouse accused of misconduct. By its very definition, “marital misconduct” must cover behaviors which took place before the marriage ended and the misconduct must have resulted in one spouse suffering considerable financial, emotional or physical burden.

Defining Marital Misconduct

Most of us limit our thinking of marital misconduct to adultery however the state of Mississippi offers twelve grounds for seeking a fault-based divorce, some of which can absolutely affect the outcome of the divorce.

These grounds include:

  • Natural impotency—while seldom used as a ground for divorce, past cases suggest the impotency must be an inability to engage in sex which is not curable and does not include the inability to procreate.
  • Spouse incarcerated—a divorce may be granted to anyone whose spouse is currently incarcerated or has been sentenced to a jail or prison term.
  • Even a single act of adultery is grounds for a fault-based divorce in Mississippi however that adultery must be able to be clearly established in court. The admission by the spouse, the testimony of the lover, audio or video recordings, testimony of a private investigator, friend or family or photos can be used to establish adultery. Circumstantial evidence such as giving or receiving gifts from a suspected lover, frequent phone calls, text messages, e-mails or any other secretive behavior may also suffice in establishing the presence of adultery.
  • Desertion—when the spouse has disappeared for at least a year with no contact.
  • Habitual drug use which renders the spouse addicted to the drug and unable to control his or her use.
  • Habitual drunkenness which has an adverse effect on the marriage.
  • Habitual cruel and inhumane treatment—one of the most commonly alleged, yet perhaps the toughest to prove.
  • Insanity at the time of marriage without the other spouse’s knowledge.
  • Bigamy
  • Pregnancy of the wife at the time of the marriage—unless the husband was aware of the pregnancy. If the husband is aware of the pregnancy then later the baby is not his biological child, he may not claim pregnancy of the wife at the time of marriage as fault-based grounds for divorce.
  • Kinship within the prohibited degree—a relationship designated by Mississippi law as incestuous is grounds for divorce.
  • Incurable insanity—once a spouse has been committed in a mental institution for a period of three or more years, the other spouse may obtain a divorce based on the incurable insanity grounds.

Compensation Rather than Punishment

While not specifically meant to punish the “offender” in the marriage, financial compensation is intended to compensate the “victim.” Some of the grounds for divorce might have little effect on the outcome of the divorce, but others could have significant effect. Economic fault, while not offered as Mississippi grounds for divorce, may be considered in the final distribution of assets. Economic fault can include dissipation of assets, hiding assets, diverting marital assets to pay for an addition or extramarital relationship, excessive spending, destruction of property, the fraudulent conveyance of property or any other type of conduct which prevents the courts from determining an equitable division of property.

This means that while adultery in and of itself will not affect the asset distribution, if the spouse committing the adultery spent an undue amount of marital assets on the affair, then the other spouse may be entitled to compensation. Similarly, the spouse who has a drinking, drug or gambling problem may not automatically entitle the other spouse to a bigger piece of the marital pie. If those behaviors resulted in excessive or abnormal spending, hiding assets, dissipating assets or diverting marital income to pay for the habits, then compensation for the victim-spouse is likely. Courts are likely to give more weight to certain types of misconduct over others; since economic fault, adultery and addiction can all have significant impact on the couple’s marital assets, these areas of misconduct may actually be given more weight than cruelty or domestic violence, simply because they exerted a more direct influence on assets.

Call The Law Offices of Matthew S. Poole for the Help You Need

Those who believe marital misconduct occurred during their marriage and that the marital misconduct directly impacted marital assets should discuss those issues thoroughly with a qualified divorce attorney.  Matthew S. Poole has years of experience helping those in the middle of a difficult divorce. Matthew Poole will listen to your concerns and offer solid advice on whether alleging marital misconduct in your divorce is to your benefit. All the evidence will be assessed and, after hearing your feelings about the misconduct, the best options will be offered. We understand how difficult divorce is and will do everything in our power to make the process less stressful. Call (601) 573-7429 to set up an appointment to discuss your individual circumstances.

Tags: ,