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cruelty

n. the intentional and malicious infliction of physical or psychological pain on another. In most states various forms of "cruelty," "extreme cruelty," and/or "mental cruelty" used to be grounds for divorce if proved. This brought about a lot of unnecessary (and sometimes exaggerated or false) derogatory (nasty) testimony about the other party. There was little standardization of what constituted sufficient "cruelty" to prove a divorce should be granted. Starting in the 1960s "no fault" divorce (sometimes now called "dissolution") began to replace contentious divorces in most states, so that incompatibility became good enough grounds for granting a divorce.

See also: cruel and unusual punishment  divorce 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications

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