marital tort

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A marital tort refers to a tort committed by one spouse against the other. It is a civil action as between spouses, or against a third party for their interference in the marital relationship.  As with most torts, these actions may be based on a party's intentional or negligent behavior. In most jurisdictions marital privileges and immunities are suspended for the purpose of the proceedings.

There are two main types of marital torts: 

  • Torts for alienation of affectation involve loss of love, comfort, or companionship of the other spouse, and the plaintiff seeks compensation for these losses from the spouse or from the third party.
  • A criminal conversation tort, which is when the plaintiff's spouse is involved in an extramarital affair. The plaintiff seeks damages from the third party who engaged in sexual intercourse with their spouse while the marriage was still in tact. 

See Rodriguez v. Lemus for an example.

[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]