Tevis Claims - Seeking Personal Injury with Divorce and Dissolution

A spouse may seek damages for financial or physical/personal injury or abuse sustained during the marriage or civil union. This so-called "Tevis" claim is filed together with the divorce or dissolution action. The court may separate the two actions into two cases for separate trials. This means that the dissolution claim is presented to a judge for a bench trial where the judge makes the decision. The civil claim for monetary or personal injury is tried to a jury. Though they are eventually separated for trial, the claims must be filed together initially so that they are not barred by a legal theory called "Entire Controversy Doctrine." The Doctrine holds that all claims a person may have against another must be filed in the same complaint.

In 1979 the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the case of Janina Tevis v. Michael Tevis. Janina Tevis divorced her husband and then sued him for physical abuse during the marriage. A jury believed her testimony and awarded her $35,000 for her injuries. However, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict, and stripped her of her award. The Supreme Court said she should have brought the action for assault and battery as part of her divorce under the Entire Controversy Doctrine. Because Ms. Tevis waited and filed a separate complaint against her husband, she was denied her recovery.