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Bill to help victims of domestic violence divorce fails to pass

Domestic abuse is a very real danger for many spouses in Mississippi. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for victims of domestic abuse who are married to their abusers to seek a divorce. Not only could their physical safety be threatened by their abuser if they try to divorce, but some forms of abuse such as emotional abuse and financial abuse leave victims with little means to seek help. Some lawmakers recently attempted to take a step forward in helping these victims seek a divorce, but unfortunately, their efforts were stymied by the Mississippi Senate.

The Mississippi Senate recently failed to pass a bill that would add domestic violence to the list of grounds for divorce, if there was clear and convincing evidence that the abuser attempted to cause physical injury, actually physically injured their spouse or made their spouse fear that he or she would suffer imminent serious injury. Currently Mississippi has 12 grounds for divorce, including habitual drunkenness and adultery, among others.

In Mississippi, if both spouses agree to end their marriage they can do so on grounds of irreconcilable differences. However, if one spouse does not agree to end the marriage, the spouse pursuing a divorce in general needs to state one of the 12 current grounds for the divorce or else settle on terms that are not favorable. Domestic abuse survivors usually claim "habitual cruel and inhuman treatment" as their grounds for divorce, but this is a tall standard to meet, as the abuse must be both ongoing and physical.

The failure to pass the bill was a blow to advocates of it, who claim Mississippi's current laws regarding the grounds for divorce are out of date. The Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that victims of domestic abuse say that what they need the most is legal help to get a divorce. In the end, it is important for victims of domestic violence get the help they need from attorneys and other organizations to escape their abusive situations and pursue a divorce if necessary.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Mississippi Fails To Add Domestic Violence As A Legal Reason For Divorce," Melissa Jeltsen, April 26, 2016

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