Why some divorcing spouses file alienation of affection lawsuits

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2022 | family law |

Marriages end for all kinds of reasons. Often, couples simply grow apart or no longer feel the love and respect for each other they once did. In many cases, a spouse meets someone else with whom they fall in love.

Learning that your spouse has been faithful (physically and/or emotionally) can be devastating. While an extramarital relationship is often a symptom rather than a cause of a couple’s problems, there are times when that extramarital relationship destroys the marriage.

What this kind of lawsuit requires – and doesn’t require

North Carolina is one of just a handful of states that allows alienation of affection lawsuits. This is a civil legal action, separate from a divorce, that a spouse can take against the third party they hold responsible for the dissolution of their marriage.

As long as a plaintiff can show that they and their spouse were in love and that the plaintiff contributed to or caused the loss of this love and the end of their marriage, they may have a successful case. A plaintiff doesn’t have to prove that there was a sexual component to their spouse’s relationship with the third party or that the person they’re suing intended to break up the marriage.

As with other civil cases, plaintiffs can seek economic and non-economic damages. Pain, suffering and emotional distress would be understandable non-economic damages. If a jilted spouse had to seek psychological counseling, lost their job because they were too upset to work or suffered serious physical consequences because of the affair that led to their spouse ending the marriage, they could have economic damages as well.

What is criminal conversation?

In some cases, depending on whom the third party is, a spouse can also sue them for something called “criminal conversation.” This could be applicable if the person with whom their spouse became involved was in a position where they were trusted to help and not harm the marriage — like a marriage counselor or pastor.

The decision to file a civil lawsuit against the third party whom you believe ended your marriage is one you should consider carefully. The divorce process alone can be stressful and lengthy without adding a lawsuit to the mix. Only you can ultimately determine whether you need to take this additional step. Having experienced legal guidance can help you do what’s best for you.

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