Can I Sue My Ex for Emotional Distress?

Can I Sue My Ex for Emotional Distress?

Relationships can cause severe emotional distress when the partners disagree or separate. In some cases, the emotional distress could be caused by abuse or violence

Domestic violence and teen dating violence do not need to be physical abuse to cause harm. A person can suffer from depression, anxiety, and other anguish because of an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Violence includes verbal and emotional abuse

The first step is to recognize the problem and ensure your safety. Then, you can seek legal advice regarding a lawsuit against your ex.

What Do I Have To Prove To Sue My Ex for Emotional Distress?

If you sue your ex-partner, you have the burden of proving your allegations. You must have sufficient evidence to prove each legal element required to hold your ex liable for damages. Generally, a lawsuit for emotional distress requires you to prove:

Extreme Behavior

Being rude or insulting does not rise to the level of extreme behavior. The behavior must exceed what a typical person would consider civilized conduct. In other words, the behavior must make the average person feel shocked or outraged.

Some states define extreme and outrageous behavior in their statutes. Other states might use different phrases to define behavior that exceeds the bounds of human decency. 

Severe Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is the mental suffering a person experiences because of an event or a series of events. Mental trauma can cause physical and psychological conditions. 

You must prove that you suffer from severe emotional distress. Feeling depressed or anxious is insufficient to prove your case in most states. Therefore, proving severe emotional distress usually requires medical records

Examples of conditions that could indicate you experienced severe emotional distress include, but are not limited to:

It is important to see a doctor to document your symptoms and obtain a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Seeking counseling and therapy helps you, but it also creates medical records to help you prove that you experienced extreme emotional distress. 


You must prove that your ex-partner’s conduct caused you emotional distress. In other words, there must be a reasonably foreseeable, direct link between your ex’s conduct and your emotional distress. Proving causation is often the most challenging step in suing an ex-partner for emotional distress.

Therapy and counseling records can help link your ex’s behavior to your emotional distress. Likewise, a doctor can rule out other reasons why you are suffering from physical symptoms of emotional distress, such as headaches, stomach pains, fatigue, and high blood pressure.

What Damages Could I Receive for Emotional Distress Caused by My Ex?

State law differs on the types of damages a person can receive for emotional distress. Depending on your state’s laws, you could recover compensation for:

  • Medical bills and expenses related to the emotional distress
  • Loss of income and benefits if you are out of work because of emotional distress or any physical symptoms caused by the stress
  • The cost of ongoing treatment and therapy 
  • The pain and suffering you experienced because of your ex-partner’s conduct

The amount you receive for damages depends on the facts of your case. The severity of your symptoms, the strength of your evidence, and your ex’s behavior are factors the court considers. 

What Should I Do Next?

Cases claiming emotional distress can be difficult to win if you do not sustain physical harm. Some states require victims to prove they suffered physical injuries or developed physical symptoms before they can recover compensation for emotional distress. An assault injury lawyer can help you understand the laws in your state and prepare a lawsuit against your ex for emotional distress.

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