Alienation of Affection / Criminal Conversation

Charlotte Alienation of Affection Attorney

How to Sue for Alienation of Affection in North Carolina?

When we are talking about suing another person for causing the feelings of your spouse to be alienated or removed from you, we call this claim "Alienation of Affection." The history of these claims is rooted in the principle that they will somehow remedy "wounds to the heart," and as such, they were traditionally referred to as "heart balm" torts (claims).

In an Alienation of Affection claim, a Plaintiff spouse must show, and prove, as follows:

  • That the parties were legally married (via a marriage license)
  • That the parties were happily married with “genuine” love and affection existing between them
  • That the love and affection existing between the parties was alienated and destroyed, with said loss of love and affection being caused by the “wrongful and malicious” acts of the Defendant

The date of separation is extremely important in regards to this claim, as the alienation must have begun and occurred prior to the date of separation. Further, and of equal importance, the Plaintiff must pay careful attention to what we call the "statute of limitations," which is the timeframe under which your claim must be filed with the Court. To this point, the claim of Alienation of Affection must be filed within three years from the date that the alienation occurred, although there has been some case law which has indicated that the clock does not begin ticking until the Plaintiff spouse becomes aware that the third party was responsible for the associated alienation.

Criminal Conversation

There are virtually no defenses available to the claim of Alienation of Affection. However, the best defense will be if the Defendant can prove there was a total absence of love and affection between the married parties prior to the "meddling" of the Defendant. A less desirable defense might be that the Defendant did not know that the object of his or her affections was married.

There are not many states which allow you to directly address the behavior of a third party who may have had an affair with your spouse. However, North Carolina is just one of a handful of remaining states which still allows you to sue another person for having sex with your spouse, and/or for causing the affections of your spouse to be removed from you. Specifically, when we are talking about suing another person for having sex with your spouse, we call this claim "Criminal Conversation."

Criminal Conversation is often referred to as a “strict liability tort” because the Plaintiff must only demonstrate as follows:

  • There existed a valid marriage between the spouses.
  • There is evidence of voluntary sexual relations between the Defendant and the Plaintiff’s spouse during the course of the marriage (an affair, adultery, etc.).

The only real defense to Criminal Conversation is that the Plaintiff consented to the sex acts which occurred between his/her spouse and the Defendant. As we mentioned above in reference to the claim for Alienation of Affection, the Plaintiff must pay careful attention to the statute of limitations. For a Criminal Conversation claim, the Plaintiff has three years from the date that the sexual acts occurred to file a lawsuit, although there has been some case law which has indicated that the clock does not begin ticking until the Plaintiff spouse becomes aware of the third party's actions.

Pursuing a Claim

Finally, it is worth pointing out at this juncture that the actual pursuit of the claims for Alienation of Affection and/or Criminal Conversation are becoming less and less common as the years go by.

There are essentially two reasons for this:

  • First, the attorney you hire to pursue such claims will usually require you to pay the associated attorney's fees along the way. And when we say "along the way," we are saying that it usually takes about two years between the time of the filing of your lawsuit and the time your case actually comes before a jury of your peers. As such, it is not uncommon for a Plaintiff to spend upwards of $100,000.00 in pursuit of the desired monetary remedy (which is not guaranteed). In short, very few people are willing, or able, to front this type of money over such a long period of time in pursuit of an unknown verdict.
  • Second, the Plaintiff is footing the attorney fee bill while knowing all along the way that jurors are increasingly becoming resistant to punishing a third party for intruding upon a marriage when that third party was not a party to the marriage contract and the associated vows of fidelity. However, notwithstanding that these claims are falling into disfavor in terms of the actual number of lawsuits which are being filed, it is very common for the threat of these claims to be utilized by family law attorneys as leverage within a dispute between a husband and wife in order to obtain more favorable results in the realm of spousal support (alimony) and property division (equitable distribution).

To learn more about Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation in North Carolina, and how these claims may apply to your case, contact Coggin Law.

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Alienation of Affection/Criminal Conversation
Child Custody
Mediation/Collaborative Law
Premarital Consults
Separation/Divorce
Spousal Support/Alimony
Why You Should Not Wait to File for Divorce to Resolve Your Custody and Financial Issues
  • Alienation of Affection/Criminal Conversation
  • Child Custody
  • Mediation/Collaborative Law
  • Premarital Consults
  • Separation/Divorce
  • Spousal Support/Alimony
  • Why You Should Not Wait to File for Divorce to Resolve Your Custody and Financial Issues

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