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Can the victim of domestic violence sue in addition to pressing criminal charges?

Under the common law (the law as passed down through the courts, as opposed to enacted by legislatures), family members could not sue one another. The rationale was that if suits were allowed, it would lead to a breakdown of the family. Many states now recognize the sad fact that if domestic violence is present in a family, it has already broken down, and thus the rationale for the common law rule is no longer present.


Today, almost all states permit spouses to sue one another for intentional actions, such as battering. Another action, called intentional infliction of emotion distress, is also permitted in most jurisdictions, and this includes threats, destruction of property and stalking.


In a few states, which may still preserve the common law rule of "no suits between family members," judges will look to the intent of the action. If it was a deliberate act that caused harm to another person, then the judge may make an exception to the common law rule because domestic violence is a deliberate act that causes harm to another person.