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.