Separating from your spouse can be difficult, especially if the separation was caused by a third party who has interfered in your marriage and alienated the affections of your spouse from you. North Carolina is one of only six states* which allow a spouse to seek damages from a third party for the alienation of a spouse’s affections by filing a claim for Alienation of Affection. In North Carolina, a spouse may also file a claim for Criminal Conversation against a third party, which seeks damages for the “wrongful acts of sexual intercourse with a married person”.
What is Alienation of Affection?
Alienation of Affection occurs when a third party engages in wrongful acts with a married person that deprives a spouse of love and affection. A valid claim for alienation of affection requires that the following elements be proven:
A valid marriage existed with genuine love and affection;
The love and affection was alienated and destroyed; and
The wrongful and malicious acts by the third-party alienated the spouse.
What is Criminal Conversation?
Criminal Conversation occurs when a third party engages in wrongful acts of sexual intercourse with a married person. Claims for criminal conversation are typically filed simultaneously with claims for alienation of affection because both claims rely on the same events and actions. This claim is a strict liability claim, i.e., it only needs to be shown that the act itself occurred. To be successful in a claim for criminal conversation the following elements must be proven:
A valid marriage existed; and
Acts of sexual intercourse occurred during the marriage between the spouse and a third party (circumstantial evidence of the act is sufficient).
Are there Defenses?
If an action for alienation of affection and criminal conversation has been filed against you, an experienced attorney can help you to determine if defenses may be available for your specific circumstances. Examples of some defenses are consent, separation of the parties, the statute of limitation tolling period, jurisdiction, marital misconduct, and lack of knowledge.
What Award is Granted if Successful?
Monetary damages for alienation of affection and criminal conversation claims can be substantial, but only if the third party has assets to pay such a large award. An experienced attorney can help you analyze the details of your case and help you do a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it is worthwhile seeking these claims. Seeking a monetary gain is not the only reason a spouse may file a claim for alienation or criminal conversation. Sometimes filing actions for these claims can help negotiate a more favorable settlement in a pending divorce action.
Daphne Edwards and her family law team can help you navigate through all your family law issues, including alienation of affection and criminal conversation claims. Focusing exclusively on divorce and family law matters for more than two decades, Daphne is a formidable opponent and aggressive trial lawyer. She and her team handle complex divorce matters, including custody, property settlement, and alimony. She provides comprehensive and individualized guidance throughout the Research Triangle. If you have questions or need a skilled attorney to assist you in your family law matter, contact Daphne Edwards Family Law at (919) 838-7160 for a consultation.
*These states include Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.