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Is Emotional Abuse Grounds For Divorce? Here’s What You NEED To Know

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Ending a marriage is never easy. Even with more than half of marriages in the USA ending in divorce, getting that divorce can be incredibly stressful and painful. This is only amplified when there is abuse involved. 

When you are the victim of domestic abuse, you can be made to feel so small that it can be really difficult even to see divorce as an option.

Is Emotional Abuse Grounds for Divorce? Here’s What You NEED to Know

Abusers gain control of every aspect of your life, and this can make leaving the relationship very hard. It is even harder if you are married due to the divorce proceedings that you will have to go through. 

When two people are getting divorced, it is understandable that emotions will be running high. But one thing that the divorce courts never tolerate is emotional abuse. Or abuse of any kind, for that matter. 

In this guide, I’ll be taking a look at whether, or not, emotional abuse is grounds for divorce, and everything you need to know about this topic. Read on to find out more. 

What is Emotional Abuse?

Let’s start by taking a look at what emotional abuse is. Emotional abuse is a type of abuse that is commonly found in relationships where there is existing domestic violence.

It is defined as any non-physical behaviors that are made to control, coerce, isolate, or frighten the victim. While it is most common in romantic relationships, emotional abuse is found in a wide variety of different relationships. 

In romantic relationships and marriages, emotional abuse typically involves a number of different behavioral patterns. This could include intense and unwarranted jealousy, humiliation tactics, intimidation, dismissiveness, monitoring, threats, and insults.

Emotional abuse can come in a wide variety of different forms, and no two cases are the same.

Typically, abusers will use a range of different emotionally abusive tactics on their victims. They may begin by checking in on their partner more regularly, and then this could spiral into intense monitoring of everything the victim does.

Likewise, insults could start off as small jokes and spiral into full-on insults. Emotional abuse is a wide category of abuse. However, it can be simply explained by any non-physical behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable, isolated, controlled, or coerced. 

What Are the Signs of Emotional Abuse?

Unfortunately, emotional abuse is a lot more difficult to spot than physical abuse. As a victim, it can be easier to spot the signs of physical abuse because you are being physically harmed.

Emotional abuse is a little more difficult to spot because you may doubt yourself, and wonder if you are being overly dramatic. 

Thankfully, there actually are quite a few signs of emotional abuse that you can look out for if you suspect you may be the victim of emotional abuse. They include the following:

  • Your partner actively says things that belittle you and make you feel small.
  • Your partner makes insulting comments directed toward you. They may be delivered in a jovial fashion but are designed to hurt you. 
  • Your partner raises their voice at you. 
  • Your partner saying things in front of other people that are designed to make you feel embarrassed.
  • Your partner frequently loses their temper with you and makes you feel like you’re “walking on eggshells”.
  • Your partner makes rude comments that might make you feel degraded or ashamed. 
  • Your partner delivers verbal threats to you that may make you feel uncomfortable or scared.

As I said earlier, emotional abuse comes in a variety of different forms, and no two cases are the same. The examples above are just a handful of how emotional abuse can be delivered to the victim. 

Is Emotional Abuse Grounds for Divorce?

Is Emotional Abuse Grounds for Divorce? Here’s What You NEED to Know

In short, yes, emotional abuse can constitute grounds for divorce. Abuse of any kind is not only considered grounds for divorce, but it is also illegal, so you could potentially press charges against your partner for their abuse.

So if you do find yourself a victim of emotional abuse, you can divorce your husband or wife for this reason. When you file for divorce against your spouse, you will need to give a reason for the divorce.

While you cannot simply give “emotional abuse” as the reason, you can file for a fault-based divorce against your spouse, citing “cruelty” as the reason for the divorce.

Any divorce where abuse has been a contributing factor will be taken very seriously, and it can be very damaging for the abuser.

In most States, “cruelty” as a contributing factor to divorce essentially constitutes anything that makes living with the other person intolerable. This can include physical abuse and emotional abuse.

So, yes, emotional abuse absolutely is grounds for divorce and this can be listed as the reason for your divorce from your spouse if you have been the victim of emotional abuse. 

Effects of Emotional Abuse on a Marriage

When there is emotional abuse within a marriage, it really can make that marriage intolerable. As the victim begins to face abuse from their abuser, they will start to fall out of love with their spouse.

Essentially the marriage stops being a marriage and instead becomes an abusive relationship. Despite this, many victims tend to stay in abusive relationships for a long time before they leave. 

There are lots of reasons why victims tend not to leave abusive relationships immediately. They include things such as fear, circumstances, and lots more.

As victims tend to stay in abusive relationships for a long time, the effects that they tend to feel from the emotional abuse tend to be long-term and damaging. 

Some of the effects that a victim may feel after an emotionally abusive marriage include:

  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Paranoia or Social Anxiety
  • Chronic Stress
  • Physical Pain
  • Trust Issues
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

While there is no physical proof of emotional abuse, the damage that it does to the victim is long and lasting. Even after the marriage has been dissolved.

Proving Emotional Abuse in Court

As I said at the start of this guide, ending any marriage can be daunting, scary, and upsetting. This is only further increased when there is emotional abuse involved in the marriage.

Especially when you file for divorce with “cruelty” in the form of emotional abuse as the reason. 

One of the most overwhelming things about filing for divorce on the grounds of emotional abuse is gathering evidence. With the help of your divorce lawyer, however, gathering this evidence shouldn’t be too difficult. 

For you to prove the emotional abuse in court, you will typically need to gather the following evidence:

  • Testimony from potential witnesses.
  • Digital evidence of the abuse. 
  • A timeline of events. 
  • Testimony from experts. 

Along the way, you will be guided by your divorce lawyer, and remember, the courts take domestic abuse very seriously. That includes emotional abuse too.


In short, yes, emotional abuse definitely does constitute grounds for divorce. While you cannot state “emotional abuse” as the reason for abuse in most circumstances, you can state “cruelty” which includes emotional abuse. 

In this guide, I have taken a look at why emotional abuse is considered grounds for divorce, the evidence you will need for this, and lots more. 

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