Mississippi's Bill To Allow Divorce For Domestic Violence Accidentally Walks Into The Door
Strange, we keep finding reasons to use this
Mississippi came perilously close to entering the 20th Century last week (The 21st? Not even close!) as a conference committee considered a bill that would add domestic violence to the acceptable grounds for divorce in the state. In the end, Mississippi (which only ratified the end of slavery in 2013) decided it wasn't quite ready to take such a radical step, thanks to a last-minute amendment which would also have allowed people to divorce after two years of separation.
The bill, sponsored by three Republican senators, had originally simply allowed divorce on the grounds of "one or more instances of domestic violence ... if established by clear and convincing evidence," but two state House members decided that was far too sweeping, so they amended it to allow less wiggle room:
Domestic Violence: An intentional act where the perpetrator causes serious bodily injury to his spouse or attempts to cause serious bodily injury to his spouse, if established by clear and convincing evidence. 'Serious bodily injury' is defined as bodily injury that involves: (1) a substantial risk of death; (2) extreme physical pain; (3) protracted and obvious disfigurement; and (4) protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body part, organ or mental faculty.
The amendment sent the bill back to conference committee, where another amendment got tacked on allowing divorce after "Willful and continued separation without co-habitation, with the intent not to return or resume or otherwise continue the marital relationship, for not less than two years."
That was simply too much for state Sen. Angela Turner, a Democrat (?!?), according to one of the bill's original sponsors, Sen. Brice Wiggins, who explained, "She argued that people should stay married." Turner moved to send the bill back to the conference committee, where it quietly died. So hey, all you Yankee smartasses saying Mississippi is so backwards it wouldn't allow people to get divorced for domestic violence, you are wrong. Mississippi is actually so backwards it thinks people should be forced to stay stuck in marriages even when they've given up on living together. Let's get that straight, okay?
Sen. Wiggins, sounding like some kind of crazy liberal with his hair on fire, said maybe lawmakers should consider reality in divorce law:
"People are stuck in marriages, but in particular children are placed in situations that are not healthy," Wiggins said. "The marriages are there because they can't get out of them. A party will hold the other party hostage for child support or just to be vindictive. The only other option is irreconcilable differences.
Wiggins acknowledged that "There are some who think you just stay married because it's biblical in nature," but added that he and Sen. Sean Tindell, who are both attorneys, deal with people on a daily basis who really, really should not be together. He said he'll try to introduce a bill allowing divorce on grounds of domestic violence again next year.
In the meantime, victims of domestic violence will have to try to convince a judge that being beaten counts as "habitual cruel and inhuman treatment," which you'd think might fit the bill, except we can see how the "habitual" part might get in the way if a husband only beat up the little woman the couple few times and he's real sorry and will never do it again, he promises. On the upside, people can already get divorced in Mississippi for grounds such as impotence, adultery, bigamy, habitual drunkenness, or mental illness, so maybe that's enough progress for now.
May as well end a Mississippi story with Nina Simone yet again.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.