Habitual, Cruel, and Inhumane Treatment is Hard to Prove

One of the most common grounds which is alleged in at-fault divorce cases in Mississippi is that the petitioning spouse was subjected to habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment by the respondent spouse. Unfortunately, this grounds for divorce is also difficult to prove. As you might imagine, the inability to prove habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment could result in a court’s refusal to grant a divorce in a situation where a divorce is needed in order to enable an abused spouse to break free from their abuser.

What makes it so hard to prove habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment is evidence, or more likely, the lack thereof. Mississippi courts have ruled that the petitioning spouse must provide “a preponderance of credible evidence” in order to support their claim that a divorce should be granted on the grounds that they have suffered habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment. Chamblee v. Chamblee, 637 So. 2d 850, 859 (Miss. 1994) The evidence must show that not only do the respondent’s actions rise to the level of cruelty, but also that those actions have caused physical or emotional harm to the petitioner.

Examples of situations where the courts may find that habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment has occurred include case where the petitioner has experienced severe physical violence on multiple occasions, or extreme emotional abuse over an extended period of time. While multiple incidents or a pattern of mistreatment are normally required, in extreme cases, the court may recognize a single incident as sufficient proof of the need for a divorce. Boutwell v. Boutwell, 829 So. 2d 1216, 1220 (¶14) (Miss. 2002)

Sometimes, the evidence which is needed to support a petition for divorce based on the grounds of habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment is difficult to obtain because it is expensive. In order to support allegations of physical and mental harm, the petitioner may have to present testimony of the doctors and psychologists which have diagnosed and treated their injuries. Unfortunately, the price of this type of testimony may keep it out of reach of many people who most desperately need it.

At other times, the evidence is not difficult to obtain because of its cost, but because the dynamics of abusive relationships are such that abused spouses may not show or tell anyone anything about what is going on inside of their home. Even if they do share some information with others, it may not be enough to corroborate their claim. An example of a case in which the court did feel that enough evidence was provided to support a claim of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment is Fulton v. Fulton, 918 So. 2d 877, 880 (¶7) (Miss. Ct. App. 2006) In this case, three witnesses were presented by a woman in order to corroborate her claim that she had been abused by her husband. One witness was her mother, who had observed bruises. The second witness was a friend, who testified that the wife often called late at night to talk about the fights that she had with her husband. The third witness, the wife’s cousin, testified that she had felt the tension in the home when she visited, and that she had taken pictures of the wife’s injuries.

If you intend to pursue a divorce based upon the grounds of habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment, you need the assistance of an experienced Mississippi Divorce Attorney. Matthew S. Poole is a renowned Family Law Attorney in Mississippi, with a reputation for helping his clients present their cases in the best possible manner. To learn how Matthew can help you, call our office today, at (601) 573-7429, to schedule you free initial consultation.