What is a fault-based divorce?
A fault-based divorce is filed when one spouse requests a divorce based on a fault of their partner. This is also called a contested divorce. Someone seeking to divorce their partner may opt for a fault-based divorce out of necessity—because they cannot agree, they must sue their partner to end the marriage. It can also give a spouse the chance to express serious grievances in court. Determining fault may affect the judge’s ruling on matters such as custody, child support and property division.
How does a fault-based divorce differ from a no-fault divorce?
Compared to a no-fault or irreconcilable differences divorce, a fault-based divorce is often drawn-out, adding difficulty to an already challenging and emotional experience. Fault-based divorces also present more complex legal issues, including proving a spouse’s wrongdoing and determining whether they fit the grounds for a fault-based divorce in that state.
Because of this, it’s important to have an attorney willing to listen to you, tell your side of the story and fight for what you deserve in your divorce trial. Attorney Amy Pietrowski is dedicated to doing just this and providing her family law clients with the best representation.
What are the laws surrounding fault-based divorces in Mississippi & Tennessee?
Beginning in the 1970s, lawmakers across the U.S. made significant changes to American divorce law. As irreconcilable differences divorces became the standard, some states eliminated fault-based divorces. However, both Mississippi and Tennessee still offer residents the option to file a fault-based divorce.
What might warrant a fault-based divorce?
For a fault-based divorce suit to succeed, the plaintiff must prove that their spouse has harmed them or otherwise undermined the marriage. Mississippi and Tennessee have similar lists of grounds for a fault-based divorce. They fall into a few broad categories, including:
1. Violence within the marriage
In both states, cruel and inhuman treatment of one spouse by another is grounds for a fault-based divorce. This is the most common fault ground in Mississippi. It includes physical violence or conduct that caused negative physical effects. The innocent spouse must prove that the treatment occurred habitually over time. The Tennessee grounds also specify a spouse’s attempt to take the other’s life as grounds for a divorce.
2. Abandonment of the marriage
Another grounds for divorce in both states is desertion—the willful abandonment of the marriage—for at least a year without agreement, explanation or cause. This does not necessarily mean physical desertion and could occur while the couple lives in the same home.
Adultery, meaning a voluntary sexual relationship outside of the marriage, also constitutes grounds for divorce in both states.
Tennessee law specifies two additional specific situations that would warrant a divorce. First, if a spouse abandons another and refuses to care for them despite having the means to do so. The other scenario is if one spouse moves to Tennessee, their partner refuses to move to the state and has been apart from them for two years.
3. Personal issues that have a major impact on the marriage
Mississippi and Tennessee have similar lists of personal issues of one spouse that can negatively impact the marriage. These include habitual drunkenness and drug abuse, as well as incarceration in a state penitentiary. Mississippi law stipulates incurable mental illness that develops after the marriage as another reason someone may divorce their partner.
4. Important matters or conditions undisclosed at marriage
This category of grounds involves important details about an individual and their life that their spouse is not aware of when the marriage begins and which may have affected their decision to enter the marriage. In both states these include natural impotency or sterility that the spouse was unaware of, undisclosed pregnancy by another person at the time of marriage and bigamy (marriage to another person).
In Mississippi specifically, one spouse having a mental illness or intellectual disability their partner was unaware of and incest are also grounds for a fault-based divorce.
What should I do if I’m considering a fault-based divorce?
Because of the complex legal issues involved in a fault-based divorce case, it’s important to have a capable, qualified attorney. An experienced attorney can help you build a case to ensure you come out of this difficult time with the best deal. Amy Pietrowski has experience with family law in both Mississippi and Tennessee and is ready to fight for you today. Contact her today.