The Legal Definition of Mental Cruelty in a Texas Divorce

By Ellen Swanson Topness

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Texas law on divorce is different than the law in numerous other states. Many states are now no-fault divorce states. Texas has no-fault and fault-based grounds available to the divorce petitioner. A no-fault divorce is one in which both parties agree that neither is at fault and that reconciliation is not an option. Fault-based grounds require that one or both of the individuals caused the marriage to end.

Fault-Based Divorce

A fault-based divorce can be based on allegations of adultery, imprisonment, abandonment, living separate or insanity. A common reason for a fault-based divorce is mental cruelty. Sec. 6.002 of the Texas divorce code states, "The court may grant a divorce in favor of one spouse if the other spouse is guilty of cruel treatment toward the complaining spouse of a nature that renders further living together insupportable." Cruelty in this case covers the spectrum from mental cruelty to physical aggression.

Historical Use

The Free Legal Dictionary reports that mental cruelty is a term that is not used much anymore, except in a few states such as Texas. Historically this term has been used to justify a divorce when there was an absence of adultery or physical cruelty. The petitioner could testify that the other person was cruel by, for example, coming home late and leaving them alone, or being mean to his mom, etc. If she has at least one person verify the list of indignities, the judge could grant her the divorce.

Mental Cruelty

Though mental cruelty may have been used to justify a divorce when fault had to be established, it still can be a valid reason today in the state of Texas. Mental cruelty can be seriously offensive and humiliating treatment, mental torture and embarrassment that causes the spouse's life to be miserable. This cruelty is such that it can actually cause mental and physical health problems.

Read More: What Constitutes Mental Cruelty in a Divorce?


If the petitioner files for a fault-based divorce, he must prove the spouse has done something wrong. She would have the right to defend herself and her name in court. Therefore, the divorce may be taken to trial. This is costly and difficult. believes that contested mental cruelty cases are challenging because it is hard to prove the spouse intentionally caused mental suffering. The harmful effect of the acts of cruelty also needs to be clearly proven.

Other Divorce Requirements

If you are filing for a Texas divorce, whether fault-based or no-fault, be aware that district court has jurisdiction over your case. You have to have been a Texas resident for at least six months and lived in the county of filing for at least 90 days.To get a divorce in Texas you must live in the state for at least six months and the county of filing for at least 90 days.