Mental cruelty is a pattern of negative behaviors or an adverse climate that can damage a relationship. Both men and women can be subjected to this type of treatment. When victims are married, such psychological anguish may be used as a legal ground for divorce.
Many people associate the term “abuse” with physical harm. Mental cruelty, however, is regarded as a type of abuse. Its most common effects are to cause psychological and emotional harm and to make a relationship unbearable. Due to these possibilities, in many places, mental cruelty is one of the grounds on which divorce can be based.
In some jurisdictions, divorce must be based on a cause. This is when the use of mental cruelty as a reason to dissolve the marriage is often found. In many places, however, no-fault divorces are permitted and common, which has largely resulted in a decreased need to make claims of faults such as this.
It is often difficult to define mental cruelty because there are numerous actions that can qualify or contribute to this type of abuse. These include public embarrassment and humiliation, being emotionally unresponsive, and inflicting fear with the threat of physical harm. Attempts to create a strict definition could adversely affect many people by excluding harmful behavior. This is why it is usually left open to interpretation on a case-by-case basis.
One thing that is important to note is that a single event does not generally constitute this type of abuse. Psychological anguish also does not have to be limited to a single type of behavior. If a man humiliates his wife at a dinner party one time, she cannot successfully file for divorce on the grounds of being mentally abused. If this woman's husband regularly engages in this behavior or if he mentally abuses her in other ways, and this pattern of behavior has harmed her or threatens to do so, then she has a case.
The law may not require that any of the alleged acts be intentional. It is possible that a person can subject another to mental cruelty without specifically aiming to do so. Both sexes can be victims of this type of abuse.
A divorce based on mental abuse is generally handled by a lawyer who either deals strictly with divorce cases or who specializes in family law. An individual would likely find it difficult to win such a case without legal representation. Although the term is most common in marital situations, it is also possible to be a victim of mental cruelty in other types of relationships.