Published time: 1 Mar, 2017 04:23
Edited time: 1 Mar, 2017 13:28
Domestic violence not grounds for divorce in Mississippi after lawmaker kills bill
Mary Merrill-Gutierrez © Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
Chairman Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) torpedoed Senate Bill 2703, urging the need for “policies that strengthen marriage.”
Gipson said “if a person is abusive, they need to have a change in behavior and change of heart,” and claimed that abuse was already grounds for divorce under “Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment if proved by credible testimony.”
Many are concerned that this sends the wrong message to victims of domestic violence. And the requirement to have a witness to the abuse often forces children to take the stand to testify, Mississippi Today reported.
Gipson pushed back against criticism on Facebook, where he wrote, “Over the last several years we have passed numerous bills through the committee I chair to strengthen penalties against those who commit domestic abuse, including bills we passed this year broadening protections available under protective orders.”
On both Facebook and Twitter, he shared an article from the Mississippi Family Law Blog explaining that abuse does qualify as habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. However, the article also explained that proving abuse under the current law “can be tough to prove” and a “single act of cruel conduct will generally not suffice because it is a ‘continuous’ course of conduct–rather than a single act–that constitutes ‘habitual’ cruel and inhuman treatment.”
The lawmaker also voted against bona fide separation, meaning living separately for three months without intent to return is not grounds for divorce. Gipson also defended that choice by explaining that a spouse could leave and punish “the innocent person.”
While Mississippi does have a variation for a no-fault divorce, it is one of the last two in the country without a catch-free divorce that allows a partner to offer no fault against their partner.
“At a time I think we need to be adopting policies that promote marriage and people sticking together, I have some serious concerns about opening the floodgates any more than they already are,” Gipson said of the divorce laws. “I think the floodgates are already open and this just tears the dam down.”
However, Gipson took to his Facebook to claim that it “wouldn’t have significantly changed the law” and still required a burden of proof.
Mississippi has 12 grounds for divorce, including a lengthy process regarding divorcing someone over mental illness, pregnancy by another father that the husband did not know about, habitual drunkenness and impotency.