A Mississippi Senate bill would add an “irrevocably broken” marriage as grounds for divorce.
It’s the latest in a centuries-old, mostly unsuccessful effort to bring Mississippi’s misogynistic and antiquated divorce laws into the 20th (that’s right, the 20th) century.
Judiciary One President, Brice Wiggins, authored Senate Bill 2643, which passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 13, with four politically brave souls voting “present”. Wiggins drafted the bill based on recommendations from a task force of judges, lawyers and other experts reviewing the state’s domestic laws.
“The task force’s reasons are compelling,” Wiggins told his colleagues, “is the destruction to children and families caused by Mississippi’s restrictive divorce laws…being militarized.”
It would at least be a step closer to a unilateral no-fault divorce like most of the rest of the world. Mississippi and South Dakota remain the only two states without grounds for unilateral no-fault divorce. Mississippi’s ground for divorce based on “irreconcilable differences” requires the mutual consent of the spouses. This often makes obtaining a divorce in Mississippi difficult and expensive, and it often allows one spouse to delay a divorce for years, sometimes many years. It also leads spouses and children to become trapped in bad, often abusive family situations.
Otherwise, a spouse wanting to separate from a marriage would have to seek – and prove, sometimes with a ridiculous level of burden of proof – a divorce on one of 12 grounds. The wording of many of the reasons illustrates how outdated they are. The lands are:
■ Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment (note that these must be ‘usual’). In 2017, after much debate and after killing similar measures for years, the legislator added domestic violence to this ground, based on the testimony of the victim spouse.
■ Voluntary, continuous and obstinate abandonment for at least one continuous year.
■ A criminal conviction and a prison sentence.
■ Habitual drunkenness.
■ Habitual and excessive use of opium, morphine or other similar drugs.
■ “Idiocy”, provided that the spouse had no knowledge of a mental handicap before the marriage.
■ Incurable mental illness.
■ Wife impregnated by another man.
■ Incest — spouses related to each other.
■ Natural impotence.
Mississippi’s divorce laws, little changed in 100 years, ostensibly aim to uphold the sanctity of marriage. But they don’t, because Mississippi’s divorce rate is often among the highest in the country (likely because its laws make marriage easier). They add to the state’s high rate of domestic violence, clog the courts with protracted divorce battles, and cost families money on attorney bills that would otherwise be better spent. The laws disadvantage low-income people, especially housewives who lack the resources to fight a protracted legal battle to get out of a marriage.
But many lawmakers and some members of the state’s religious lobby have opposed any reform of divorce laws. Lawmakers, however, in 2012 passed what was called a “speedy marriage” law, making marriage easier in Magnolia State by removing a 3-day waiting period and other regulations.
A few years ago, the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence and a Coast judge unsuccessfully tried to get the state Supreme Court to declare the lack of true no-fault divorce in the state unconstitutional. State.
Wiggins said the task force recommended unilateral no-fault motive, but the “irrevocably severed” was apparently a nod to realpolitik.
The bill is now heading to the House, where divorce reform has also been a tough sell.
Senator Rod Hickman, a lawyer for Macon, before the Senate vote said, “This law doesn’t make divorce an automatic thing. It’s a half step. I had clients separated for 16 years who still couldn’t divorce. I think it’s a good law that will help a lot of people.