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Legislative panel rejects domestic abuse as ground for divorce

Most states have adopted some kind of "no fault" divorce legislation that allows spouses to simply agree that they want to end their marriage without proving adultery, impotence or other forms of misbehavior. In Mississippi, a couple who wants a divorce can cite "irreconcilable differences" as the grounds to end their marriage. Difficulties may ensue, however, if one of the parties to the marriage refuses to agree that the couple experiences "irreconcilable differences." A state senator recently attempted to broaden the grounds for divorce, but the chairman of a key committee in the state House of Representatives has now killed another effort to broaden the grounds for divorce.

Republican Sen. Sally Doty introduced a bill that proposed to add domestic violence to the list of twelve approved grounds for divorce in Mississippi. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the State Senate, and passage by the House seemed to be a sure thing. When the bill was sent to the House for approval, however, Andy Gipson, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, found a number of objectionable features of the bill.

Gipson first argued that the bill did not clearly define "domestic abuse." He said that the language might cause an increase in the number of divorces in the state because merely raising one's voice to a spouse could be interpreted as domestic assault. The chairman, who is also a Baptist ministers, stated that "we need to be adopting policies that promote marriage and people sticking together." Gipson refused to give the Senate bill a hearing, effectively killing it for the current session. Gipson cited the current ground of "cruel and inhuman treatment" as sufficient protection for abused spouses.

Obtaining a divorce in Mississippi can still be problematic. If spouses do not agree on the grounds for divorcing, a formal petition and trial may be required. Anyone contemplating a divorce may wish to consult an experienced family law attorney for advice on how a marriage can be ended with a minimum of emotional turmoil and expense.

Source: Mother Jones, "Mississippi Still Won't Make Domestic Abuse Grounds for Divorce," P. R. Lockhart, Mar. 1, 2017

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