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How to Prove Mental Cruelty in a Divorce?

— November 22, 2021

It must be proven that the abusive behavior causes the spouse to be unable to maintain the marital status.

Extreme cruelty is a form of claim filed in a divorce in which one spouse claims that the other was mentally or physically cruel to them. The facts and circumstances of every divorce are different, so the court needs to look at all of the details before determining extreme mental or physical cruelty. 

A divorce involved with extreme cruelty is easier to settle in court because it is considered a divorce based on fault. 

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce

In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse has committed wrongdoing and the reason for divorce is unrelated to any form of abuse. Some common reasons for no-fault divorces include incompatibility, finances, and growing apart. Overall, no fault divorces are less expensive and less time consuming. 

Fault divorce may be granted if it can be proven that one spouse did something that resulted in the failure of the marriage. Every state has different laws for fault-based divorces, and some don’t allow it at all. Check your state’s requirements to find out if a fault-based divorce is possible for your situation.

If your state does allow fault-based divorces, an experienced divorce lawyer can help you prove mental cruelty in your case by presenting the necessary evidence to the courts.

According to the Legal Information Institute, common grounds for fault-based divorces include:

  • Mental or physical cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Abandonment
  • Confinement in prison
  • Inability to perform intercourse

In some cases, the spouse that is able to prove fault in the divorce can receive a larger settlement from the divorce. 

What is Mental Cruelty?

Angry man waiving fist; image by OpenClipart-Vectors, via Pixabay, CC0.
Angry man waiving fist; image by OpenClipart-Vectors, via Pixabay, CC0.

Mental cruelty can be used as grounds to prove a fault divorce. Mental cruelty is repeated unprovoked abusive misconduct that leads to a drastic effect on the spouses mental health and the failure of the marriage. It does not exist in a few isolated instances, and it instead is an ongoing form of torture that makes one spouse unable to live with the other. Mental cruelty can often cause feelings of anguish, disappointment, and frustration over long periods of time, leading to overall poor mental health. 

Steps to Take if you are a Victim of Mental Cruelty

If you are a victim of mental cruelty, you must take the following steps to prepare for your case and your recovery.

  1. Gather evidence
  2. Hire a lawyer
  3. Speak to witnesses
  4. Request testimonials from professionals
  5. Seek emotional support

If you are a victim of severe physical or emotional domestic abuse, you need to seek resolution sooner by contacting a domestic abuse hotline at 1-877-633-1112 and contacting a lawyer immediately so that they may get started on your case.

Proving Mental Cruelty in Court

It must be proven that the abusive behavior causes the spouse to be unable to maintain the marital status. Depending on your state, malicious intent may also need to be proven, which would show that the spouse had the intent to cause mental cruelty. 

The court will look at the total factual background of the case to determine if mental cruelty is present. If you are a victim of mental or physical cruelty and want the best chance at a positive outcome, it is best to collect all evidence to present in court to help your attorney prove your case. Testimony from other professionals or people in your personal life can also be useful in court. 

If mental cruelty is not proven in your case as the cause of the separation, the evidence can still be used to impact child support and custody. In a custody battle, it may be possible to prove that the spouse causing the mental or physical cruelty is an unfit parent. 

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