Picking up the pieces following a divorce is never easy. It can be even more difficult to move on if the breakup was caused by someone other than the people in the relationship. If the acts of a third-party cause one person to “lose the affection” of his or her spouse, there may be legal recourse through a claim of Alienation of Affection in North Carolina.
Alienation of Affection is a lawsuit brought by a married (or formerly married) person, who alleges that the actions of a third party deprived the married (or formerly married) person of the love and affection of his or her spouse.
The person filing an Alienation of Affection lawsuit must show 3 things:
- There was a marriage with existing love and affection
- The love and affection was destroyed
- By the wrongful and intentional acts of a third party.
Now that you know what Alienation of Affection is, legally speaking, here are 7 quick facts to consider:
- North Carolina is one of the few remaining states that recognize Alienation of Affection lawsuits.
Yes, that is right. North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that still recognizes the claim of Alienation of Affection. Sure, other states do still consider extramarital affairs (adultery) when it comes to the issue of alimony, but North Carolina is one of the few states that allows a married person to actually sue a third party for money based on that’s third party’s role in diminishing the love and affection between the married person and his or her spouse.
- There is no set dollar amount that can make up for a relationship wrecked by cheating… Or is there?
The Beatles taught us long ago that money can’t buy me love. While that may be true, a hefty jury award in an Alienation of Affection case might help you take a sad song and make it better. Let’s not forget the $8.8 million awarded in North Carolina in 2018 when a Superior Court judge found that an affair lasting over a year had harmed the party through criminal conversation and Alienation of Affection.
- It’s probably not worth filing if the person you are suing has no money.
Since the prize for winning an Alienation of Affection lawsuit is money, you probably should not sue a third party who has little money or resources available to pay you. You may end up spending more money wrapped up in legal battles than it is worth in the end.
- You can’t base an Alienation of Affection claim solely on the existence of a third party’s relationship with your recently separated spouse.
If you believe a third party caused your spouse to lose affection for you, you’ll need proof beyond the fact that the third party is still currently dating your ex. As you search for that proof, keep in mind, that a post date of separation relationship between your ex and the third party can be used to support your claim that a relationship existed before you actually separated. Even then, it may not be enough to win this type of lawsuit.
- It’s Constitutional.
The law of Alienation of Affection is still considered constitutional though it is challenged in North Carolina. As of the date of this article, the law does not violate freedom of speech, freedom of expression, or freedom of association. It also does not offend the Due Process Clause by limiting a person’s liberty to have intimate sexual relationships with other consenting adults.
- Open Marriage? No Alienation.
When spouses agree to an “open marriage”, that agreement can be a defense to an Alienation of Affection lawsuit. Why might an open marriage be considered a defense against alleged Alienation of Affection? Remember that in order for an Alienation of Affection suit to be successful, one party must prove that a loving relationship existed, and that the new relationship was a controlling and effective cause of the marriage being destroyed due to the actions of a third party. If you and your significant other agreed to an open marriage, defined by Merriam-Webster as, “a marriage in which the partners agree to let each other have sexual partners outside the marriage,” you may have a difficult time proving Alienation of Affection in court.
- You don’t have to be from North Carolina to be liable for Alienation of Affection.
North Carolina has a “long arm” statute that allows our courts to reach defendants who do not live in North Carolina. Using the long arm statute, NC Courts can punish out of state parties who have caused injuries to North Carolina residents. In Alienation of Affection cases, North Carolina Courts have determined that an out of state person can be liable for Alienation of Affection if intimate acts between the married spouse and the third party occurred in North Carolina. Our Courts have also determined that out of state persons can be held liable in North Carolina if the out of state party places telephone calls or send emails to a North Carolina spouse. That means, you don’t necessarily have to be a resident of North Carolina to be sued for Alienation of Affection. You could face liability simply by making calls and sending emails to a married person who lives in North Carolina.
If you have questions about Alienation of Affection in North Carolina, or criminal conversation do not be afraid to ask for help. Divorce is tough, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Make an appointment with a divorce and family law attorney in your area to discuss your Alienation of Affection claim and the specific circumstances of your case.