Domestic Torts: Enhancing Recovery by Pursuing Claims for Wrongful Acts Between Divorcing Spouses

Claims to Assert, Interspousal Immunity, Res Judicata

This program has been cancelled

A live 90-minute CLE webinar with interactive Q&A

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 (in 5 days)

1:00pm-2:30pm EST, 10:00am-11:30am PST

(Alert: Event date has changed from 10/15/2019!)

This CLE webinar will bring to the forefront an emerging issue for family law attorneys--recovering for one spouse against the other for tort claims arising out of wrongful acts during the marriage.


Though the divorce process should address current and future financial obligations between the spouses adequately, the process falls short when a spouse commits a wrongful act against the other outside of the divorce proceeding. Many of these acts are acts of domestic violence.

There is no doubt that when one person commits an intentional violent act against another, the injured party can pursue a tort claim. Within the marital relationship, these claims are not only for the physical impacts of abuse but for the lasting psychological effects.

The legal system places two potential barriers to these claims. First, the concept of "spousal immunity" bars tort claims by one spouse against another. Though this immunity is eroding, it has not disappeared. Divorce trial attorneys must know its constraints and how to avoid them. Second, the divorce proceeding itself can be raised as res judicata concerning any claims relating to the marriage. Again, the informed practitioner can avoid this consequence.

Listen as this panel of legal experts versed in the law of domestic violence reviews not only the underlying torts but strategies for keeping tort claims alive in the face of spousal immunity and res judicata.



  1. Types of domestic tort claims
    1. Infection with an STD by one's spouse
    2. Physical assault and battery
    3. Marital rape
    4. Wrongful death
    5. Intentional infliction of emotional distress
    6. False imprisonment
    7. Use of excessive force
    8. Defamation
    9. Wiretapping
    10. Battered women's syndrome
  2. Spousal immunity
    1. Statutory
    2. Common law
    3. Erosion of the doctrine
  3. Preclusion defenses
    1. Collateral estoppel
    2. Res judicatia
    3. Entire agreement (settlement context)
  4. Strategies


The panel will review these and other critical points:

  • Tort claims not traditionally addressed within divorce proceedings
  • Procedural obstacles for a plaintiff spouse to pursue tort claims
  • How to successfully preserve and assert such claims


Cunningham, James
James P. Cunningham

Williams Williams Rattner and Plunkett

Mr. Cunningham maintains one of the most highly regarded family law and divorce litigation practices in Michigan. In...  |  Read More

Gourvitz, Ari
Ari H. Gourvitz

Managing Member
Gourvitz & Gourvitz

Mr. Gourvitz is the managing member of the firm. He has concentrated his entire legal career on divorce and other...  |  Read More