Skip to main content

What constitutes Gross Neglect/Extreme Cruelty in divorce? Does a Dear John letter qualify?

Cleveland, OH |

My father was briefly married prior to marrying my mother. He doesn't talk about that marriage and all he will say is that he got a Dear John letter from his first wife while he was in Vietnam.

I found online that he was granted a divorce from his first wife on the grounds of "Gross Neglect/Extreme Cruelty." Would the Dear John letter meet the qualifications for Gross Neglect/Extreme Cruelty? If not, what else meets the Gross Neglect/Extreme Cruelty standard in a divorce proceeding ?

+ Read More

Attorney answers 2


The answer to your questions depend on several factors. One of these factors is where and when the divorce was granted. Under today's divorce law, "gross neglect" basically means failing to support the other spouse (which can be broadly interpreted and applied) and "extreme cruelty" does not require an act equivalent to "abuse." Hope this helps!

Beth A. Blackmore


Your question is interesting. The reality is that grounds are required to obtain a divorce. The grounds are set forth in Ohio Law: Section 3105.01 Divorce causes.

The court of common pleas may grant divorces for the following causes:

(A) Either party had a husband or wife living at the time of the marriage from which the divorce is sought;
(B) Willful absence of the adverse party for one year;
(C) Adultery;
(D) Extreme cruelty;
(E) Fraudulent contract;
(F) Any gross neglect of duty;
(G) Habitual drunkenness;
(H) Imprisonment of the adverse party in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint;
(I) Procurement of a divorce outside this state, by a husband or wife, by virtue of which the party who procured it is released from the obligations of the marriage, while those obligations remain binding upon the other party;
(J) On the application of either party, when husband and wife have, without interruption for one year, lived separate and apart without cohabitation;
(K) Incompatibility, unless denied by either party.

Now, that is technical jargon. What does it mean? Well, very little. The state needs a basis to grant the divorce. You cannot be divorced without valid grounds. Someone can contest the grounds and then the Plaintiff would actually need to prove that there was a valid basis for the divorce. This is rare. Most people simply consent to the grounds for divorce.

IF one party files and the other does not answer the complaint for divorce, then an "uncontested" hearing goes forward. The plaintiff needs a witness to testify to grounds. In regards to gross neglect and extreme cruelty, the court is generally happy with "Have you seen Defendant be mean to Plaintiff." They then grant the divorce.

I assume that is what happened in your instance.

Hope that helps.

The above information is not, nor intend to be, legal advice. You SHOULD consult an attorney for specific advice regarding your individual situation. Based on this response no attorney-client relationship has been formed. If your matter is in Cuyahoga County or surrounding counties, we invite you to contact us. Please visit our website at Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information until such time and attorney-client relationship is formed. Attorneys in this firm are only licensed to practice in the state of Ohio and have no specific information as to the laws and rules of other states and none of the information provided is intended to be applied to the laws of other states.

Avvo divorce email series

Sign up to receive a 10-part series of useful information and legal advice about the divorce process.

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer