Extreme Cruelty Definition




1 Baldwin's Oh. Prac. Dom. Rel. L. 11:12 (2004)


Baldwin's Ohio Practice

Ohio Domestic Relations Law

Stanley Morganstern and Beatrice Sowald

2003 Edition Current through 2004 Pocket Parts



Chapter 11. Divorce

By Hon. Timothy M. Flanagan [FNa1]




Table of Contents;

Extreme cruelty has been defined as acts and conduct calculated to destroy the peace of mind and happiness of one of the parties to the marriage. The conduct must be such that it so seriously affects the household as to render the marital relationship intolerable. Moreover, the conduct must be voluntary or intentional. Thus, extreme cruelty cannot be committed by a spouse who is insane and incapable of understanding the nature of his or her conduct. However, a divorce may be granted on the ground of extreme cruelty where the insane person engaged in the offensive conduct while sane.

Extreme cruelty is not limited to acts of physical violence. Rather, extreme cruelty encompasses a broad range of hostile, aggressive, or disruptive acts which may affect the physical, emotional, or psychological well-being of the victim-spouse, including:


(1) physical abuse;

(2) excessive or abnormal sexual demands, provided such acts are against complaining party's will;

(3) refusal to engage in sexual relations;

(4) homosexuality;

(5) excessive marijuana smoking;

(6) insistence on attending adult movies, in addition to gambling with household funds;

(7) threats of divorce combined with alcoholism, nagging, and involvement with another person;

(8) attacks on spouse's character and self-respect;

(9) bad faith attempt to have spouse placed in mental institution;

(10) conversion to religious faith which disrupts and destroys marriage;

(11) verbal abuse;

(12) general failure to provide companionship and emotional support;

(13) continuous quarreling and nagging, combined with making false, malicious, and derogatory statements to friends and business associates;

(14) attempting to have spouse arrested for leaving home with parties' minor child as well as refusing to allow spouse and spouse's father to visit with minor child; and

(15) repeated attempts at suicide.

Although cruelty is usually predicated upon a series of cruel acts, it is possible to establish it from one incident if the act was outrageous in itself, was dangerous and might be repeated, or produced an irreconcilable alienation between the parties.

Whether the conduct of a spouse constitutes extreme cruelty is a question which is left to the sound discretion of the trial court.

A husband's admissions may sufficiently corroborate a wife's allegation of extreme cruelty without the need for other corroborative testimony. A civil or criminal domestic violence protective order may also be used to corroborate an allegation of extreme cruelty.


. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Michael R. Shanabruch, Esq. in preparing this chapter.



Excerpts from 2004 by West, a Thomson Business

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