New Jersey Divorce Lawyers: What is a Tevis Claim and What Does it Mean for My Divorce?

At Lyons & Associates, we focus on handling all types of divorces, even those with extra or special claims. Tevis is one type of special claim that Lyons & Associates regularly faces with our clients.

A Tevis claim is a personal injury claim that you can allege against your spouse in the divorce complaint when acts of domestic violence have occurred. There are a few key benefits to filing a Tevis claim within your divorce complaint, such as:

  • You could get money damages from your spouse for pain and suffering, compensatory damages for any monies you had to put forth as a result of the assault by your spouse, and possibly even punitive damages.
  • The Tevis claim could be used as a bargaining chip in the divorce litigation as something you would agree to dismiss in exchange for a larger share of equitable distribution.

While Filing a Tevis Claim has Some Benefits, it Also has its Drawbacks, Including:

  • You would have to prove damages, both physical and emotional. Proof of physical damages includes medical records. Depending on the extent of your physical injuries, you may also have to retain a medical doctor to testify on your behalf, which could be a significant expense to you.
  • If you also wish to seek emotional damages, you would likely have to retain an expert to testify as to the emotional impact of the assault on you in support of your claim. Expert costs can be well over a few thousand dollars for just the initial evaluations and the expert’s written report. If the case goes to trial, experts will charge an additional fee as compensation for their testimony. Also, if alleging emotional damages, your personal therapy records can be examined as well.
  • In addition to the cost of having to retain an expert to prove damages, litigating a personal injury claim as part of the divorce would also substantially increase your attorneys fees as you are litigating both the personal injury and divorce issues.

Important Things to Note About a Tevis Claim:

A Tevis claim MUST be alleged in your divorce complaint, due to the “entire controversy doctrine.” The entire controversy doctrine requires that you bring all claims in one lawsuit, meaning that if you do not allege the Tevis claim in the divorce matter, you would likely be barred from bringing a personal injury claim against your spouse after the divorce case is completed.

New Jersey’s statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims is 2 years. Therefore, the personal injury action must be filed within that two year time limitation.

Once your Tevis claim is filed, it can take two different routes: 1.  You can prosecute the Tevis claim within the divorce matter; or 2.  You can make an application to the Court to separate the Tevis claim from the divorce matter. If you choose separate the two, the Tevis claim would be tried in the Civil division and it would be brought before a jury once the divorce is done.

Prosecuting the Tevis claim within the divorce matter would involve a more detailed Case Management Order and deadlines for an Independent Medical Evaluation that you must undergo, the exchanging of separate interrogatories and demand for production of documents that is only as to the Tevis claim, and seeking deadlines for HIPAA releases to be completed. Keep in mind that these expenses are out of pocket for the client to cover. Severing the Tevis claim would also focus the divorce litigation to the issues of equitable distribution, alimony and child support.

Prosecuting the Tevis claim within the divorce action would provide just one judge to handle both the divorce and the Tevis claim. This, ultimately, may be to your benefit as this one judge would be privy to not only all of the issues within the divorce, including the outcome of equitable distribution.  Based on this one judge’s knowledge of the equitable distribution of assets, he or she would likely be in a better position to assess the proper award of monetary damages.

Contact the Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Assoicates

A Tevis Claim is a serious claim. If you or someone you know has questions about the filing of a Tevis claim, contact one of the skilled attorneys at Lyons & Associates at 908-575-9777. You can also fill out our online intake form.

Written By: Marissa A. Del Mauro, Esq.