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Knoxville Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > When Your Ex-Spouse Is So Abusive That the Court Awards You Noneconomic Damages for Pain and Suffering

When Your Ex-Spouse Is So Abusive That the Court Awards You Noneconomic Damages for Pain and Suffering


In Tennessee, as in most states today, no fault divorce is the rule rather than the exception.  Most divorces happen because the ordinary disagreements that couples have, such as about finances, in-laws, parenting, careers, and intimacy, begin to outweigh the desire to stay together.  The family courts assume, usually correctly, that both parents have the children’s best interests in mind and deserve to have an ongoing, stable relationship with the children.  Domestic violence is one of the worst things that can happen in a marriage, and if it gets so bad that one spouse needs a protective order against the other, the court may rule that the abusive parent does not get any parenting time, at least not in the beginning, or may get only supervised visits.  If you are a survivor of domestic violence, your safety and that of your children come first.  A Tennessee divorce lawyer can help you and your family build a new life.

Details of the Kanka Case

The divorce Cynthia and Christopher Kanka is an example of what can happen if domestic violence is a factor in a couple’s divorce.  When they married in Michigan in 1990, Christopher was working for the auto manufacturing company GM, while Cynthia worked as an administrative assistant.  When they moved to Tennessee, their daughter was in first grade, and they agreed that Cynthia should be a stay-at-home parent, because Christopher’s job paid enough to support the whole family.  By the time Cynthia filed for divorce in 2014, Christopher was employed as a quality supervisor at a GM facility in Tennessee, and his monthly income was more than $70,000.

During the divorce trial, Cynthia testified that, like many survivors of domestic violence, she refused to recognize the warning signs until the violence escalated, but, in fact, it began slowly starting almost as soon as they got married, and that Christopher’s drinking made it worse.  Christopher’s behavior toward Cynthia took a turn for the worse when Cynthia was injured in a car accident in 2013 and could no longer keep the house as neat as she had previously done.  One night, when Cynthia tried to break up a physical fight between Christopher and their teen daughter, he broke one of Cynthia’s ribs.  Cynthia told a neighbor about the incident, and the neighbor notified DCS.

Christopher and Cynthia’s divorce became final in 2014, when their daughter was 16.  In addition to the division of property, alimony, and child support, the court awarded Cynthia $20,000 in noneconomic damages, namely $10,000 each for the emotional distress Christopher had caused her and their daughter.  Christopher appealed the judgment, but the only change the appeals court made was to rule that Cynthia could not receive damages for her daughter’s pain and suffering.  For that to happen, the daughter would need to be a party to the claim for damages.

Let Us Help You Today

Divorce is stressful when you have minor children, but once you start the process of divorcing an abusive spouse, you will feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders.  Contact Knoxville divorce attorney Patrick L. Looper for help today.




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