Extreme Cruelty Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Extreme Cruelty, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Extreme Cruelty?

n. Requirement to illustrate the infliction of mental or physical harm by one party to his/her spouse in order to support a divorce judgment or unequal division of property. Except for Illinois and South Dakota, all states recognize “no fault” divorces. Some states favor the suffering spouse when dividing the property when there is evidence of extreme cruelty.

History and Meaning of Extreme Cruelty

Extreme cruelty is a legal term used in divorce cases to describe the infliction of mental or physical harm by one spouse on the other. The term is used to support a divorce judgment or unequal division of property. In most states, including California, extreme cruelty is one of the recognized grounds for divorce.

Extreme cruelty can involve a wide range of behaviors, including physical abuse such as hitting or kicking, sexual assault, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, intimidation, and financial control. In essence, this term refers to any behavior that makes it unsafe, unbearable, or intolerable for one spouse to continue living with the other.

Examples of Extreme Cruelty

  1. Jane's husband John physically abused her on numerous occasions during their marriage. She filed for divorce, citing extreme cruelty as a reason for the split.

  2. Sarah's husband, Mike, forced her to have sex with him against her will. She filed for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

  3. Tom's wife, Linda, constantly belittled him, called him names, and criticized everything he did. He filed for divorce, citing emotional abuse as an example of extreme cruelty.

Legal Terms Similar to Extreme Cruelty

  1. Irreconcilable differences - refers to a legal reason for divorce used in some states where neither spouse needs to prove fault or wrongdoing.

  2. Domestic violence - a broader term that includes physical abuse, sexual assault, emotional abuse, or any other behavior that causes harm or fear within a familial or intimate relationship.

  3. Child abuse - any physical, emotional, or sexual mistreatment or neglect of a child, often a factor in divorce cases involving child custody.