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Battered Spouses And Divorce

By: Attorney John A. Hartmann, III
The laws of the State of New Jersey provide an abused spouse with several options. An abused spouse may file a complaint under our domestic violence statute seeking a restraining order that prohibits the offender from having any contact with the victim. Or, an abused spouse may file a criminal complaint in municipal court charging the offender with crimes such as harassment or simple assault.

However, if you are an abused spouse who is also seeking a divorce, you should consider filing a Tevis count when you file your complaint for divorce. In 1979, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the case of Janina Tevis v. Michael Tevis, Jr. Mr. and Mrs. Tevis were in the middle of a divorce. Mrs. Tevis testified that after she returned home one evening with her two children, Mr. Tevis began to beat her. Mrs. Tevis stated that she suffered serious bodily injuries which were substantiated at trial by her treating doctor and by photographs of her injured face and body. Mr. and Mrs. Tevis were divorced. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Tevis filed a civil suit of personal injury, and the jury awarded her a total of $35,000 in damages.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Tevis, the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs. Tevis should have brought her claim for personal injuries in the divorce case. Nevertheless, the Court established the right of a physically abused spouse to make a claim in a divorce case and to seek monetary damages from the spousal abuser.

However, not every claim for personal injury will be tried in the Family Court. For example, in a 1998 case, a wife sued her husband for damages two years after the divorce. The wife sought a monetary award claiming that her husband had infected her with herpes. The Court ruled that this claim should be heard in civil court, not family court because the husband and wife had not had a continuing family relationship.
Be sure to discuss any potential claim for bodily injuries by an abusive spouse with your divorce attorney. Your attorney will assist you in filing your claim in a timely manner and in the proper Court.
 

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