Alienation of Affection | Criminal Conversation

“The anti-jump-off law”

Divorce in the United States has become very common in recent years. In fact, it is reported that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Many marriages end because the spouses grow apart, for financial difficulties, or one spouse is unfaithful.

In recent years, in North Carolina has awarded huge judgments, ranging from several thousand dollars into millions have been awarded to the innocent spouse for alienation of affection claims. Despite many attempts to abolish the claim by the North Carolina legislature, North Carolina is one of about eight states that still recognize legal claims for alienation of affection and criminal conversation.

Alienation of affection is when a third party alienates and destroys the love and affection in that marriage. Contrary to popular belief, alienation of affection does not necessarily have to involve an extramarital affair by a spouse with another party. Sex is not required. Claims can be against any third party who destroys the love and affection in a marriage. (e.g. the crazy in-law, a friend that is always in your business, or priest/minister that doesn’t approve of your marriage.)

To succeed with a claim for alienation of affection, the innocent spouse must show that 1) a marriage existed between the parties, 2) the marriage entailed genuine love and affection, 3) that the love and affection was destroyed, 4)That the defendant’s malicious conduct contributed to the destruction of the love and affection, and 5) that the innocent spouse suffered injury and damages as a result.

Important points to consider

We cannot forget however that the malicious conduct by the defendant must have occurred prior to the separation of the innocent spouse and the other spouse. If not, there is no claim.

In addition, ignorance of the person being married is also irrelevant and is not a defense.
A claim for alienation of affection must be brought against a “natural person” (you can’t sue your spouse’s employer) Criminal conversation, in simple terms is defined as adultery and requires actual sexual intercourse for a claim to be valid. To succeed with a claim for criminal conversation, the innocent spouse must show 1)the existence of a valid marriage between the parties, 2) an act of sexual intercourse between the plaintiff’s spouse and the defendant, 3) and the plaintiff spouse suffered injury and damages as a result.

As a practical matter, these claims are difficult to prove and have many defenses. You should contact an attorney before you consider filing any claims.

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