Legal Grounds for Divorce
In Mississippi, you must have legal grounds to get a fault based divorce. To obtain a fault based divorce, you must prove one or more of the statutory grounds.
The Judge will only grant a contested fault based divorce after making a full inquiry into the facts and circumstances of the case.
If there is fault by both spouses, the divorce will be granted to the most innocent party.
There are 11 statutory fault based grounds for divorce in Mississippi.
1. Cruel and Inhuman Treatment
Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment requires proof of conduct that endangered the other spouse and/or is unnatural and revolting, including conduct showing that continuation of the marriage would risk life, limb or health. The evidence must show that the wrongful conduct occurred over a period of time and was physical in nature or had an adverse physical effect on the spouse.
Habitual cruelty and inhumane treatment is easier to prove when you have independent evidence. Independent evidence can be from the testimony of family members, friends, physicians, as well as photographs, emails, text messages and medical records. e sex.
An innocent spouse may obtain a divorce when his or her spouse has engaged in voluntary sexual intercourse outside of the marriage. Evidence needed can include admissions by the spouse, testimony of the paramour, taped recordings, video, photographs, gifts, physical affection, secretive behavior, letters, emails, and text messages.
Habitual drunkenness is a ground for divorce. This requires proof of regularly occurring drunkenness that adversely affected the marriage. For example, in the case of Sproles v. Sproles, 782 So.2d 742, 745 (Miss.2001), the Mississippi Supreme Court granted a divorce for habitual drunkenness where husband was found to habitually drink a case of beer each night which caused him to be abusive.
4. Habitual Drug Use
A spouse’s habitual and excessive use of opium, morphine or other like drug is a ground for divorce. This requires proof that the spouse is addicted to and is abusing drugs to such an extent that is is causing an adverse affect on the marriage. For example, in the case of Ladner v. Ladner, 436 So.2d 1366, 1375 (Miss. 1983), the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a divorce for habitual drug use where husband was found to have used drugs daily over a four year time frame.
A spouse’s willful, continued and obstinate desertion for at least one year is a legal ground for divorce. This requires proof of the spouse’s absence from the marital home with the intent to abandon the marriage and a the lack of consent to the abandonment. Any intervening reconciliation may start the clock over. For example, in the case of Gaillard v. Gaillard, 23 Miss. 152, 153 (1851), the Mississippi Supreme Court found that a 10 day reconciliation period interrupted the desertion and accordingly divorce was denied.
A spouse may seek divorce by proving that his or her spouse is naturally impotent. The impotent spouse cannot seek divorce but may seek an annulment instead. In the case of Sarphie v. Sarphie, 177 So. 358, 358 (Miss. 1937), the Mississippi Supreme Court denied a divorce for impotency after finding that wife was not impotent but instead suffered from condition that made sexual intercourse painful.
7. Mental Illness
Mental illness is a basis for divorce. However, premarital knowledge of such illness or retardation is a bar to divorce. In the case of McIntosh v. McIntosh, 117 So. 352, 352 (Miss. 1928), the Mississippi Supreme Court found that a divorce was not appropriate after finding out wife had mental illness shortly after marriage, but chose to remain with her through twenty years of marriage.
Bigamy is a ground for divorce. This is available if a spouse was already married at the time of the “pretend marriage.” In the case of Harmon v. Harmon, 757 So.2d 305, 309 (Miss. Ct. App. 1999), the Mississippi Court of Appeals found that the second husband and not the first husband had the right to file for divorce for bigamy.
9. Pregnancy at the Time of Marriage
Pregnancy of the wife by another person at the time of marriage is a basis for divorce in Mississippi. However, premarital knowledge of the pregnancy is a bar to divorce. In the case of Burdine v. Burdine, 112 So. 2d, 522, 523 (Miss.1959), the Mississippi Supreme Court denied a divorce where the husband knew wife was pregnant before marriage but believed he was the father of the child.
If spouses are related in a degree by statute as incestuous, then either party may seek a divorce.
11. Sentenced to any Penitentiary
A party whose spouse is sentenced to any penitentiary may be granted a divorce.