Domestic Torts in Divorce

A tort is a civil cause of action wherein the defendant, or tortfeasor, breaches his or her legal duty to act, resulting in injury or loss to the plaintiff. In the context of family law, one party or spouse owes certain duties to the other party or spouse. When one party breaches his or her duty and the other suffers harm as result, there may be a cause of action for a domestic tort.  These torts may be required to be brought in a dissolution of marriage action or certain other actions.

For example, the negligent or intentional transmission of a sexually transmitted disease is a domestic tort in Florida for which one spouse may seek damages against the offending spouse. Other examples include domestic violence (assault, battery, etc.), negligence, intentional interference with child custody, or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Each cause of action has certain elements that the victim spouse must prove in order to sustain a claim for a domestic tort. Those elements include:

  • The defendant (tortfeasor) owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances.
  • The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way.
  • The defendant’s actions actually caused the plaintiff’s injury or loss.
  • The plaintiff was harmed or injured as a result of the defendant’s actions.

If a domestic tort claim is successful, the victim spouse may be able to recover medical expenses, mental health treatment expenses, money for loss of earning capacity, and other monies from the offending spouse, depending on the claim made.

Although it may be possible in certain instances to raise a tort claim after a divorce, it is important to keep in mind that tort and civil claims are subject to the statute of limitations—you have only a certain period of time to bring forth the claims. Therefore, it is important that you communicate with your attorney if you believe you have been either the victim of a domestic tort or are the subject of or the proponent of another civil claim.

To receive more information regarding domestic torts and or other civil claims, please contact our office to schedule a confidential consultation with our attorneys at our office in Naples, Florida.

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