Domestic Violence and Mississippi Divorce Cases

Domestic violence occurs at alarming rates throughout Mississippi and the U.S.  The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence reports that over one million women suffer non-fatal violence by a person with whom they are intimate each and every year.  While both men and women can be victims of domestic violence, statistically women are more often perpetuated violence against.  For spouses in an abusive relationship, the most dangerous time is in the few weeks preceding and few weeks after a divorce.

Spouses are often not the only victims of domestic violence—child abuse often goes hand in hand with spousal abuse.  Between 3.3 and 10 million children witness the abuse of a parent each year, and in 30 to 60 percent of families experiencing domestic violence, there are both adult and child victims.  The impact of domestic violence on children is alarming, with study after study linking such traumatic events to behavioral, social, emotional, cognitive, and physical health problems.

If you are caught in a domestic violence situation and considering divorce, it is important to know the following:

  1. Help is available—preparing and filing for divorce is the most dangerous time for your safety and that of your children.  Do not take this risk alone.  There are numerous domestic violence shelters throughout the state of Mississippi that can offer you protection during this critical time.  Shelters can ensure your safety, allowing you to pursue the divorce you so require.  Further, a divorce attorney with experience in domestic violence issues can be a tremendous asset.  Your divorce attorney may elect to seek a protective order against your spouse.  A protective order can issue against a spouse in the event of domestic violence if the violence occurring meets the definition of abuse set out in MS Code § 93-21-3(a).  A protective order can provide you with a legal remedy to protect yourself before the divorce even begins and throughout it.  It can also serve as evidence of abuse in a divorce.
  2. Domestic violence can be grounds for divorce– it is important to recognize that domestic violence can be a ground for divorce in Mississippi.  Mississippi has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce, but no-fault divorce is only an option where both parties agree to the divorce.  In an abusive relationship where one spouse likely does not wish to terminate the marriage, the victim spouse may assert the fault based ground of habitual cruel and inhumane treatment.
  3. Domestic violence can prevent an award of child custody—in Mississippi, there is a presumption against awarding custody to a parent with a history of domestic or family violence.  Therefore, while ordinarily there is a presumption in favor of joint custody, this will not apply in situations of domestic violence.  The presumption against custody with the abusive spouse is rebuttable.  The spouse will have an opportunity to show the court the presumption should not apply.
  4. Documentation is important—whether you may seek a protective order, allege domestic violence as a grounds for divorce, or as a grounds for sole custody, it is important that you have documentation of the abuse whenever possible.  The best documentation comes from police and incident reports made after the abuse occurred.  Other evidence could include pictures of physical harms following abuse, psychologist reports, or the testimony of friends, family, and neighbors.  Many abuse victims do not report instances of abuse for fear of retaliation by the abusive spouse.  The absence of police reports does not invalidate your valid divorce grounds.  An experienced divorce attorney can advise you on how to best present your case in court.

Jackson, MS attorney Matthew S. Poole has helped many victims of domestic violence successfully and safely navigate the divorce process.  If you are considering divorce and have questions concerning domestic violence, call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 for a free consultation.

Tags: , ,