Do I have grounds to sue for emotional abuse by my ex-husband?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Do I have grounds to sue for emotional abuse by my ex-husband?

I was married for 7 years to a physically abusive man. I have a police record of his arrest and his own written testimony in 2016 detailing some of the abuse. We divorced 3 years ago but got back together shortly after because he was seeking help. When the relationship dissolved for good a year later, I was treated for depression (5 suicide attempts) and was out of work for close to 6 months. I lost my house due to being unable to work. Do I have a case against him? I have witness testimony from our pastor at the time,

marriage counselor and countless others.

Asked on June 18, 2019 under Personal Injury, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, there is no cause of action for "emotional abuse" for being in a relationship you chose to be in. The law doesn't compensate you for the stress or emotional/mental impact of things you do voluntarily, such as getting back together with someone you knew was abusive. As a policy reason, this is because if it allowed lawsuits like this, everyone would sue their ex if they have a bad relationship, either out of a legitimate belief that being in a bad relationship should entitle you to something, or for revenge. The courts would clogged with and hundreds of millions of taxpay dollars spent on these suits.
The legal justifications for a lack of liability are:
1) Another person has no legally imposed duty to be emotionall stable or good to those who choose to date them--this is simply not an obligation imposed by law; in the absence of a duty, there is no liabilty.
2) In choosing to be and stay with someone you knew to be abusive or who possessed mental or emotional issues, you "assumed the risk" of emotional harm and also were "contributorily negligent"--the law does not let you deliberately engage in risky or injurious behavior then sue when the inevitable happens.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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