​Facts about Alienation of Affection in Divorce Cases

Alienation of Affection is a valid civil action in North Carolina, but the laws vary in each state. There are many misunderstandings about the grounds required for such an action. Knowing whom may be considered a Defendant and knowing the difference between “Alienation of Affection” and “Criminal Conversation” actions will make it much easier to decide if one has grounds for either type of civil case.

There are certain basic facts with which a person should be familiar, in order to be prepared with the facts to take to an attorney for further discussion as to whether a case has merit.

The difference between Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation create the most confusion and knowing the facts will help in the decision-making process.

What is the definition of “Alienation of Affection?”

Alienation of Affection is a civil action filed by a husband or wife who claim that their marriage ended due to the interference or actions of a third party.

What is the definition of “Criminal Conversation?”

The term “Criminal Conversation” is misleading, since the actions involved are neither criminal, nor do they involve conversation. This claim for civil damages has very basic requirements. During a lawful marriage, one of the spouses had a sexual relationship with a third party without the consent of the other spouse.

Explain the details involved in going forward with an Alienation of Affection case.

Of course, definitions are not intended to over-simplify the process. There are elements that must be proven in order for a case to move forward.

In the case of an action for Alienation of Affection, it must be proven that the couple involved were happily married and that they had a genuine, loving relationship. The defendant has to have known that his or her actions would have a negative impact on the marriage in question.

There are many monetary damages that can be claimed as a result of the alienation of affection by a spouse. The Defendant may be responsible for compensating the Plaintiff for the Plaintiff’s emotional distress, loss of support by the deserting spouse, damage to the Plaintiff’s reputation, attorney’s fees and many more.

Against whom can a civil action for Alienation of Affection be filed?

Anyone who interfered with a marriage, including parents, in-laws or therapists who recommended that a spouse leave the marriage, can become a Defendant in these cases. Contrary to popular opinion, this action is not only intended for the lover in an adulterous relationship.

Explain the details involved in going forward with a Criminal Conversation case.

Two facts must be proven:

  1. The spouses had a legal marriage.

  2. One of the spouses had a sexual relationship with a third party without the Plaintiff’s consent.

A legal marriage is easy to prove with documentation and witnesses. There are technicalities in the law, however, that must be discussed with an attorney if there is a question of timing. During a separation or a period of possible reconciliation, there are different elements to be considered, if an adulterous relationship took place during a specific period in the divorce or separation process.

The second point is more difficult to prove, if there is no physical evidence of the relationship, such as a photo or a witness that will testify. Suspicion is not enough proof that a sexual relationship has occurred. There must be circumstantial evidence of “inclination and opportunity.”

Can a Plaintiff receive a financial award if a spouse is found to be guilty in a Criminal Conversation case?

In some cases the same claims for compensation as discussed in cases of Alienation of Affection can be made for Criminal Conversation cases. Juries will sometimes consider punitive damages, as well, which provide “punishment” to the Defendant.

Because there are varying circumstances in every personal situation, it is best to prepare a list of dates and facts to take to a trusted family law attorney. The experience and knowledge of the current laws in this area are critical. A conversation with a family law attorney will provide guidance and help in making decisions as to what type of action should be taken based on the individual circumstances.