Tevis Claims in new Jersey Divorce Cases
In 1979 the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the case of Janina Tevis v. Michael Tevis. Janina Tevis divorced her husband Michael, and then sued him for physical abuse that she suffered during the marriage. A jury believed her testimony and awarded her $35,000 for her injuries. However, Michael appealed and the Supreme Court overturned the verdict, and took away her award. The New Jersey Supreme Court said she should have brought the action for assault and battery as part of her divorce under the Entire Controversy Doctrine. Because she waited and filed a separate complaint against her husband after the divorce, she was denied any recovery. As a result, we now have “Tevis Claims” in New Jersey.
A spouse may seek damages for financial or physical/personal injury or abuse sustained during the marriage (or civil union). This Tevis claim is filed together with the divorce complaint. Depending on the case, the court may separate the two actions into two cases for separate trials or it could keep it together. This means that the divorce case is presented to a judge for a bench trial where the judge makes the decision on all the normal divorce issues. The civil claim for monetary or personal injury is then 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” (like what happened with Mrs. Tevis). The Doctrine applies to many cases and it holds that all claims a person may have against another must be filed in the same complaint.
Clearly, filing a Tevis claim starts the case off on a nasty foot. Only an experienced New Jersey Divorce Attorney can advise you if this is the right move for your case. You will have to decide what you really want. Do you want to end the case quick and for as little money as possible? Or do you want an all out war that will get expensive? While many people opt for the quick and cheap route, there are some cases where filing a Tevis claim as part of the divorce complaint may be the right move. Keep in mind that many Tevis claims are often dropped as part of settlement negotiations.