Criminal Conversation and Alienation of Affection Lawsuits
For those contemplating an affair, or who suspect that their spouse might be, it is important to realize that North Carolina law not only lists adultery as a criminal offense, but also has civil causes of action which can be brought against those who engage in affairs. These lawsuits are called “criminal conversation” or “alienation of affection” actions, and allow one spouse to sue for damages based on allegations of emotional harm caused to the marital relationship by a third party. These suits are usually brought by one spouse against the lover of the other spouse who had an affair, and in North Carolina, juries have awarded millions of dollars as a result of these lawsuits.
Understandably, it can often be difficult to prove that sexual intercourse actually occurred. As a result, in many of these situations, circumstantial evidence is accepted as proof. This essentially means proving that the spouse being charged with adultery had the opportunity and desire to engage in it. One example of this might consist of proving that the spouse being charged and the third party booked a hotel room and spent several hours there together alone without the other spouse’s knowledge. Though it is not actual proof that intercourse occurred, circumstantially, it might be considered sufficient.
It is important to take the possibility of such lawsuits seriously. Though they can be complex and require meeting a certain burden of proof, if successful, it is not unheard of for plaintiffs to receive jury awards in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you are contemplating an affair, or believe that your spouse might be, this is certainly important information to know and to keep in mind.
If you are considering cheating on your spouse, the possibility of your spouse bringing one of these lawsuits should the affair be discovered should give you pause. If a relationship is meant to be, it ultimately will be – but waiting for the proper timing is best. Rushing into something that could not only have significant financial consequences, but that could also be used against you in a custody or alimony determination is simply not the best course of action.
On the other side of the coin, if you believe that your spouse had, or continues to have an affair, consulting with an attorney as to whether a lawsuit for criminal conversation might be an option in your circumstances a is wise decision. It is certainly understandable to be hurt and angry if you feel that you have been betrayed by someone you love and who you believed loved you.
Depending on the circumstances, however, it may not be worth the time, effort, and emotional expenditure that filing a lawsuit of this nature might require. In many cases, defendants in these lawsuits are ultimately unable to pay the significant damages assessed against them – they simply don’t have the financial means. In those situations, a spouse who feels hurt will have to decide if obtaining a judgement that will have little or no financial benefit is ultimately worth it. Consulting with an attorney can be very helpful in making that decision, and is always advised.
If you need to speak with a family law attorney to learn more about separation, divorce, alienation of affection, and criminal conversation, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
 Only six other states – Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah also have laws allowing a spouse to sue for damages on the basis of emotional harm caused by a third party to the marriage.
In North Carolina, if your spouse cheats on you, you may bring a lawsuit against the paramour for alienation of affection or criminal conversation. This means you may sue the person that slept with your spouse or alienated your relationship. Take a look at this video for more information on heart balm torts in North Carolina.
Infidelity is one of the leading causes of divorce. In most cases, when a spouse cheats the damage has been done and the relationship cannot be healed. Before you consider divorce, however, especially if there are children involved, I highly recommend that you make an attempt at marriage counseling. Marriage counseling may or may not work, but at least you made an attempt at preserving the relationship.
From a legal perspective, infidelity may have a big impact on a divorce. Primarily this comes into play when determining alimony. In North Carolina, alimony may be awarded when there is a dependent / supporting relationship. This basically means that one spouse is dependent on the other spouse’s income to maintain a certain standard of living. If there is a dependent / supporting relationship and the dependent spouse has cheated, the dependent spouse is barred from alimony. If, however, the supporting spouse has cheated, the dependent spouse is virtually guaranteed alimony.
Infidelity also comes into play if an injured spouse is considering a heart balm action. In North Carolina, heart balm actions are designed to protect the sanctity of marriage and the family unit. An injured spouse may bring a lawsuit against the third party that either alienated their relationship with their spouse, or had sexual relations with their spouse. In other words, if a spouse cheats, the injured spouse may sue the person who had sex with the spouse. There are several limitations to these types of suits, however, including the fact that the actions must have occurred before the separation.
If you believe your spouse has cheated on you and you are considering divorce or legal action, please contact Adkins Law to speak to a divorce attorney. Adkins Law is located in Huntersville and primarily serves Mecklenburg County and the Lake Norman area.