What You Should Know About Torts, Spousal Relationships and Divorce

maryland family law

Do you know a major change to Maryland tort law allows you to sue your spouse for harming you?

Even though it’s been 16 years since this change was put into effect, it’s still a complex area of the law to understand. Here is what you need to know about torts, spousal relationships and divorce.

Landmark Case Changes Maryland Law

In the landmark case of Bozman vs. Bozman, Nancie and William Bozman of Maryland were in the middle of a contentious divorce. William accused Nancie of adultery and initiated a divorce, although he was arrested for stalking, harassment and violating a protective order soon afterward. In response, William sued his soon-to-be ex-wife for malicious prosecution, believing she was wrongfully using the law against him. Nancie and her lawyer wanted the case dismissed under an older law regarding interspousal tort immunity.

Until this case, Maryland interspousal tort immunity law barred lawsuits between spouses where one claims the other has caused them harm or loss. In recent decades, almost all states have eliminated these laws because they are now viewed as outdated and unfair. Why shouldn’t a husband be able to sue his wife for harming him and vice versa?

Tortious Conduct In Maryland

In the Bozman case, the court ultimately decided the interspousal tort immunity law was “a vestige of the past, whose time has come and gone,” and struck it down in 2003. As a result, a spouse can now sue their spouse for tortious conduct in Maryland. These lawsuits typically appear during tumultuous divorces, when one spouse is trying to prove the other is causing irreparable harm. Some lasting effects of the Bozman ruling include:

  • You are free to sue your spouse for harming you. This means you can file a tort action if your spouse abuses you, hurts you while drinking and driving, threatens your life or even damages your business or your reputation.
  • Sometimes a spouse sues when they acquire a sexually transmitted disease. If they can prove through medical records that the STD was acquired during the marriage due to one partner’s infidelity, they may be able to recover damages through a tort action.
  • A threat of a tort lawsuit is sometimes used as leverage in divorce cases. One spouse might try to negotiate property concessions by floating the idea of a tort lawsuit against the other.
  • One spouse may also file a lawsuit against the other for torts related to domestic violence and the inability to remain safely in their home. This, in turn, may impact child custody arrangements during a divorce.

Work With a Maryland Family Law Attorney For Practical Considerations

Although a tort action against your spouse is now possible, it’s not always practical. Sometimes another route can be a better – or safer – choice.

Your divorce/family lawyer can help you examine the entirety of your situation and decide on the best path forward. For example, if you are a victim of domestic abuse, it might be safest for you to start with an urgent personal protection order that restricts your spouse from contact with you. Later, you could take on a tort action for assault or battery, if you choose. 

When you have children, consider the situation carefully before filing a tort action against the other parent. Could it raise the stakes in an already-difficult divorce? Could it prolong the suffering of your children?

Stand Up to Spousal Abuse and Threats

Don’t be bullied out of a tort action because your spouse is pressuring or threatening you. This is exactly the kind of situation where an experienced Maryland divorce and family lawyer can help you understand your legal options when your spouse has wronged you, stand up for your rights and gain a voice in the legal system. This is a challenging and still evolving part of our state’s law and you’ll need a smart, sympathetic lawyer by your side.

Have a Legal Question About Spousal Tort Actions in Maryland? We Have Answers.

If you are considering a spousal tort action as part of your divorce, the attorneys at Zirkin & Schmerling Law can help you understand Maryland divorce laws and related matters. We can help you protect your future as you consider your options for divorce. Call us at 410-753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our family and divorce lawyers today.