Domestic Abuse Divorce Measure Fails in Mississippi
Lawmakers in Mississippi raised controversy last month when legislation that would have amended the state’s divorce laws died in a House committee. The bill would have added domestic violence to list of reasons that a person can seek a divorce in the state, bringing the total number of grounds to 13. Advocates for victims of domestic abuse say the failure of the measure is another blow to those who are suffering in their marriages and see no way to escape.
“Habitual Cruel and Inhuman Treatment”
Legal experts and commentators generally agree that Mississippi is one the most difficult states in which to obtain a divorce. A married person currently may seek to end his or her marriage one of dozen grounds, including drunkenness, adultery, impotence, and “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment.” While some have argued that domestic violence would fall under the category of cruel and inhuman treatment, the state requires proof that behavior is ongoing and habitual. Some forms of physical abuse could be proven in this way, but others—such as emotional or psychological abuse—are much more difficult to prove in a divorce proceeding.
Unlike in Illinois—where a no-fault divorce is the only type available, regardless of whether both spouses agree to the divorce—a split on the grounds of irreconcilable differences is only permitted in very specific situations in Mississippi. To obtain such a divorce in Mississippi, both spouses must agree to the divorce and to all of the terms of the divorce, including issues regarding child custody, support, and property division. Such agreement is highly unlikely between spouses for whom domestic violence is an issue, making it nearly impossible for many victims to get out of a dangerous marriage.
Two-Pronged Approach Doomed the Bill
According to the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Sally Doty, the measure did not die in committee over the addition of domestic violence as grounds for divorce. Rather, it failed, she said, because the House added yet another possible grounds—a separation of at least two years—which would have effectively extended the state’s modified no-fault divorce law. She has indicated that she will reintroduce the bill during the next legislative session.
Domestic Violence in Illinois
Illinois law no longer grants divorces on any fault grounds, as they were eliminated by the family law reforms passed in the summer of 2015. Victims of domestic violence—just like anyone else seeking a divorce—must file on the basis of irreconcilable differences. If the other spouse does not agree to the divorce, the court will accept a six-month period of “living separate and apart” as irrefutable proof of irreconcilable differences and the divorce can proceed. In some cases, a couple could be considered to be living separate and apart while continuing to reside under the same roof if the dynamics of their relationship changed substantially.
We Can Help
If you have been abused by your spouse and would like to know more about your options for ending your marriage in Illinois, contact an experienced Kane County divorce attorney today. Call 630-232-9700 for a confidential consultation with the compassionate team at The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates today.