Can I Sue My Ex-husband For Disclosing Our Privileged Marital Communications to Third Parties?

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“I live in California. During my prior marriage, I disclosed highly confidential and private information to my then-husband about my past. Now that we are divorced, my husband is sharing this private information with others. I know that the information is deemed privileged and confidential pursuant to Evidence Code Section 980. I also know that, in other circumstances and with other similar evidentiary privileges, there exists a private right of action (e.g., invasion of privacy) against someone who discloses private information obtained by virtue of a privileged communication. For example, patients may sue doctors and therapists for unauthorized disclosures of information obtained during a privileged communication. Likewise, clients may sue attorneys and people may sue clergy for unauthorized disclosures of privileged communications. That being said, I have not found any case law anywhere in the United States extending this private right of action to violations of the marital privilege and/or unauthorized disclosures of privileged marital communications (I also have not found any law precluding such a claim).

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My question is this: Can I sue my ex-husband for disclosing our privileged marital communications to third parties? Has this been done before? Is there any case law on the subject anywhere in the US (California would be ideal)?”

Due to the specificity of your question, and the fact that you have clearly already researched this, this is a question better asked of a California family law attorney, not on a free Q&A site where we can’t (and don’t) perform legal research (there is a reason that lawyers charge for legal research, it’s exacting and time consuming).

That said, we are unaware of such a case, and indeed we believe that the marital privilege typically extends in cases where a spouse is a party to a legal proceeding, protecting the other spouse from being forced to testify against them. However, the marital privilege does not *prohibit* the spouse from testifying if they wish to. Similarly – in our opinion, which is *not* a legal opinion on which you may rely, were you still married to your ex-husband, he could not be forced to testify against you, or reveal your confidential information – but he would be free to blab whatever he wanted. That said, we applaud your theory – it’s novel, and we would love to see it tested in court.

All that said, if you can prove financial or personal injury from what your ex has revealed, there is nothing to stop you from suing him in tort for such actions as defamation, and interference with prospective economic advantage.