Recently, a Mississippi appeals court ruled that a person who knowingly exposes their unsuspecting spouse to herpes is committing a cruel act that can properly serve as grounds for divorce in Mississippi under the state’s cruel and inhuman treatment law, reports Courthouse News Service.
Facts of the Case
The case that the appeals court was reviewing involved a couple, both of whom had previously been married, who were wed in 2006. During the course of their marriage the couple had unprotected sex and at some point the wife contracted herpes. The husband had never been tested for herpes, however, his ex-wife from the 1990s had previously informed him that she had the virus. The wife testified that after she tested positive for herpes she informed her husband of the test results and only then did he admitted that he also had the sexually transmitted disease.
The trial court that first heard this case granted the wife the divorce that she was seeking under the reasoning that each and every time that the couple had unprotected sex during their marriage the husband was “committing a continuous systemic cruel act upon her.” The case was appealed to a Mississippi appeals court that affirmed the lower court’s decision. The appeals court found that knowingly exposing one’s spouse to a sexually transmitted disease can, under some circumstances, constitute a form of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment.
Habitual Cruel and Inhuman Treatment
In Mississippi, a married person who petitions the court for a fault-based divorce must claim that they are entitled to a divorce under one of 12 permissible grounds recognized in Mississippi. One of these recognized grounds for divorce is “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment”. A spouse seeking a divorce for habitual cruel and inhuman treatment in Mississippi must prove that:
- Their spouse’s conduct repeatedly endangered life, limb, or health (or caused reasonable apprehension of such a danger), or
- Their spouse engaged repeatedly unnatural or infamous conduct that made the marriage revolting to the non-offending spouse and made it impossible for them to carry out their marital duties.
Proving habitual cruel and inhuman treatment in Mississippi can be tricky. When a court is deciding whether or not to grant a divorce on this ground the court considers both the conduct of the offending spouse as well as the impact of that conduct on the innocent spouse. This often involves showing that the conduct in question was in fact cruel and providing independent evidence that the alleged conduct occurred. It is also important to note that the cruel and inhuman treatment must be habitual, therefore, a one time only event does not qualify.
Need Legal Advice?
Getting divorced can be an incredibly stressful and taxing experience, however, having a knowledgeable and compassionate divorce attorney by your side can make this difficult time much more manageable. The experienced divorce and family law attorneys of Derek L. Hall, PC would be happy to guide you and your family through every step of the divorce process, simply contact our Jackson office at (601) 202-2222 to get started.