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emotional distress divorce lawyers

If you are a victim of the intentional or negligent actions of a spouse who causes emotional distress to you, it is possible to get divorced and recover damages. The extent you are likely to recover for emotional distress depends on the severity of the distress caused and the kind of damage suffered. Before you hire an emotional distress lawyer, it is important to understand the implications of emotional distress.

Types of Law Suits for Emotional Distress

The two kinds of emotional distress lawsuits are intentional infliction and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Intentional emotional distress occurs when a spouse’s conduct is reckless or intentional. Negligent emotional distress occurs when a spouse acts negligently resulting in your emotional pain. To succeed in any of these claims, you need to show that the distress is directly connected to the actions of your spouse. Furthermore, one is required to prove elements such as outrageous conduct, bodily harm, recklessness, and severe distress.

Examples of Ways Used to Inflict Emotional Distress

Isolation of one’s spouse from family and friends
Discouraging one’s spouse from engaging in activities like going to work and attending classes
Expecting one’s spouse to take part in sexual activities that they are not comfortable with or withholding sex as punishment
Criticizing a spouse’s weight, looks, and preferences
Controlling all the spouse’s financial decisions and other major decisions
Using the children to undermine or control the other spouse
Main Elements of Emotional Distress

The main elements of emotional distress are outrageous or extreme conduct, recklessness or intent, and severe emotional distress.

Outrageous/Extreme Conduct

One of the basic issues in a claim for emotional distress is identifying outrageous and extreme conduct. Without outrageous and extreme conduct, one cannot succeed in a claim for emotional distress even though their spouse acted with harmful intent or malice.

Outrageous and extreme conduct is more than the harmful, malicious, or offensive act. For conduct to be regarded as outrageous and extreme, it has to exceed all the normal bounds of decency. For example, if one spouse insults the other knowing that he/she suffers emotionally from insults or performs actions that the other spouse dislikes. The judge normally decides whether an action qualifies as outrages and extreme.


One must prove that their spouse acted with the intent to inflict emotional distress or knowing that severe emotional pain would be likely. A spouse can also be held responsible for intentional infliction when they act with total disregard of the possibility of causing emotional distress.

Severe Emotional Distress

Emotional distress may be in various forms including shame, grief, embarrassment, and fright. However, to qualify as an intentional infliction, in addition to being outrageous and extreme, the conduct must be severe. A spouse must prove that the emotional distress they suffered reached a level of severity to warrant damages for intentional infliction.

The court follows some guidelines when determining whether conduct constitutes severe emotional pain. When outrageous and extreme conduct leads to suffering that cannot be endured by any reasonable person, that experience is regarded as severe emotional distress.

The duration and intensity of emotional distress is also used to determine whether it is severe or not. For example, you can use paranoia and anxiety caused by a spouse’s action to show that you have suffered severe emotional distress.

In some cases, the nature of the conduct is enough to show that a person has suffered from severe emotional distress. For example, bodily harm indicates that a spouse has gone through severe emotional distress. Headaches or ulcers are signs that one has suffered severe emotional distress that is being reflected by their physical symptoms.

Damages for Emotional Distress

The award for emotional distress depends on factors such as medical bills, out of pocket expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, or loss of enjoyment of life. Therefore, your lawyer will be able to negotiate a damage award depending on the factors that have resulted from your emotional distress. For example, if the emotional distress you have suffered has caused you to lose your job, then your lawyer will pursue damages for lost wages or if your emotional suffering has resulted in bodily harm, your lawyer will pursue pain and suffering damages.

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