Cruel and Inhuman Treatment Law & Legal Definition


In divorce law, cruel and inhuman treatment can refer to either physical or mental cruelty. In order to constitute grounds for a divorce, for divorce, the treatment must have such a serious effect on the physical or mental health of the divorce-seeking spouse, that it is not safe or proper for the parties to continue to live together. There are no defenses to cruel and inhumane treatment, such as forgiveness or justification.

The precise definition depends on the facts in each case, but some examples, among others, of acts found to be cruel and inhumane treatment include:

  • Physical attacks upon a spouse
  • Constant screaming, profanity or other verbal abuse
  • Publicly flaunting a relationship with another man or woman
  • Intentional refusal by a spouse to have sexual relations that physically effects the other spouse

To determine whether the acts amount to cruelty as a grounds for a divorce, the court will consider whether the acts of cruelty were isolated. If the acts were few and far between, the court is less likely to grant a cruelty-based divorce. Second, the court will determine if the acts were so extreme that they endangered the health of the innocent spouse. Mere rudeness is insufficient to be awarded a fault-based divorce. In order to be awarded the divorce grounded on physical cruelty, the innocent spouse usually must corroborate his or her testimony of cruelty and must show a connection between the cruel acts and the breakdown of the marriage.