Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Personal Indignities Definition:

When one spouse has offered such indignities to the other spouse as to render his or her condition in life intolerable.

Related Terms: Mental Cruelty

Grounds for divorce in some jurisdictions; the equivalent of what might be known as mental cruelty elsewhere.

In Rocconi, Justice Olly Neal of the Court of Appeals of Arkansas wrote:

"In the case at bar, the action for divorce was based on personal indignities. In order to obtain a divorce on that ground, the plaintiff must show a habitual, continuous, permanent, and plain manifestation of settled hate, alienation, and estrangement on the part of one spouse, sufficient to render the condition of the other intolerable.

"Personal indignities have been defined as rudeness, unmerited reproach, contempt, studied neglect, open insult and other plain manifestations of settled hate, alienation and estrangement, so habitually, continuously and permanently pursed as to create an intolerable condition."

Consider these words of Justice Hill of the Supreme Court of Washington in Mertens while relative to thae case at bar, are instructive on what might and what might not constitute personal indignities for the purposes of a divorce application, but with the caution that the case was published in 1951:

"The husband's testimony built up a case of that seemed to him excessive religious zeal on the part of his wife: a refusal to use cosmetics or to patronize beauty parlors, and disapproval of smoking, drinking, dancing, card playing, and attending shows, none of which constitute cruelty or personal indignities per se.

"However, he testified further concerning her limitation of the use of the radio in the home except for religious programs; her criticism of the denomination of which his family were members, calling the members of his family hypocrites and telling them that they were going to the devil unless they turned to her church; alienating the affections of the parties' child; denying him conjugal rights; and creating an atmosphere in the home in which neither his friends nor his family felt welcome and which became so unbearable that he could not continue to live there.

"These things, if true, did constitute cruelty and personal indignities."


  • Mertens v. Mertens, 227 P. 2d 724 (1951)
  • Rocconi v. Rocconi, 196 SW 3d 499 (2004)

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