What Is Habitual Cruel and Inhuman Treatment in a Mississippi Divorce?

In a recent Mississippi appellate case, a wife filed for divorce on the fault-based grounds of adultery and habitual inhuman treatment. The couple married in 2004 and then separated in 2011. They had no children.

The husband owned a bail bonding business, and the wife worked as an admissions registrar. She also worked as an office manager at her husband’s bail bonding business. She owned a home in Vicksburg when the couple married. It had two mortgages and was worth $100,000. The husband also owned a home before and during the marriage, which was located in Vicksburg, owned without a mortgage, and worth $46,120. The couple lived at the wife’s property, and she quitclaimed her interest in that property to her husband.

The couple wanted to get money to build their marital home, so they refinanced what had been the wife’s property, and the husband paid off the second mortgage. They sold it for $100,000 and got a $50,000 loan on the other property, and with those proceeds they built their marital home. That home was valued at $380,000 and had a mortgage balance of $180,000. The husband held title to the property, but it was the marital residence until the couple decided to divorce. The couple also built a house nearby that was valued at $226,300. They paid in full for the home, and the husband took title. They also bought different cars and had marital debt of $279,749.61 when they decided to divorce.

The couple didn’t get along during the divorce, and the wife was routinely kicked out of the marital home. The husband threw her belongings out of the house. She testified at trial that her husband had choked and struck her, which caused a black eye. Her husband denied this. However, there was also an incident involving an argument about dinner at which the wife, her mother, and her sister heard the husband go upstairs and click or cock a gun. The husband denied this, and his son backed him up. The police were called, and the wife didn’t stay in the home that evening, based on threats from the husband. The husband later admitted he served her with an eviction notice and claimed to be her landlord and the owner of the home.

The wife filed for divorce in 2011, alleging adultery and habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. She and the husband had filed prior divorce complaints that were dismissed. The chancellor ordered of its own volition that the husband’s complaint was dismissed with prejudice, while the wife’s counterclaim was dismissed without prejudice. At trial, the wife was awarded a divorce on the basis of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment and awarded two of the homes, plus a Lexus. The husband was awarded the marital home plus three Lexuses. They were considered equally responsible for the marital debt.

On appeal, her ex-husband argued that she hadn’t met the burden of proof to show habitual cruel and inhuman treatment and that the chancellor had made a mistake in dividing the property. He claimed that the facts put forward by the wife weren’t bad enough to be considered habitual cruel and inhuman treatment.

The appellate court explained that to prove cruel and inhuman treatment, the wife had to show actions that either endangered life, limb, or health or created a reasonable apprehension of danger, such that the relationship was unsafe for the party asking for relief or else was so unnatural as to make the marriage revolting to the non-offending partner. The actions had to be done for so long or so frequently that their recurrence could be reasonably expected. Usually, it needs to be systematic and continuous, but even one violent incident can be a basis for divorce if it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence.

The chancellor in this case had found that the husband’s actions were habitually mean and heartless, and as a pattern they amounted to cruelty. She noted that he’d been nonchalant about the black eye while denying it and claiming he didn’t know how she got it. The appellate court deferred to the chancellor’s judgment as to witness credibility on the gun issue. It found there was enough evidence to support the claim of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. It also affirmed the property division.

For a free consultation, contact attorney M. Devin Whitt, a experienced Mississippi divorce attorney practicing in Jackson, Mississippi and all surrounding areas such as Madison, Canton, Ridgeland, Brandon, Jackson, Clinton, Byram, Raymond, Edwards, Utica, Terry, Bolton, Learned, Pearl, Richland, Flowood, Florence, Pelahatchie, or any other city in Mississippi. When divorcing, it is important to secure knowledgeable legal advice so that your divorce is valid, and you can protect your best interests in connection with matters such as alimony, child custody, and property division. Contact the Law Office of M. Devin Whitt for a free consultation at 601-607-5055.

More Blog Posts:

Mississippi Divorce Statute: A Cooling Off.. Or Heating Things Up… Period?, October 16, 2015

Home Sweet Home: Who Gets the Marital Residence in a Mississippi Divorce?, April 2, 2015

Personal Injury Awards and Property Division in Mississippi Divorce, January 7, 2015

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