An alienation of affection lawsuit (also known as a “homewrecker” or “heart balm” lawsuit) is a claim brought by a spouse who believes that he or she has been deserted as the result of a third party’s wrongful action. This sort of case often involves an extramarital lover who has caused the cheating spouse to lose affection for his or her spouse. The purpose of the lawsuit is to recover money for the damages suffered by the aggrieved spouse.
Besides romantic relationships, other third parties such as family members, clergy and even therapists who have interfered with the marital relationship can be named as defendants in alienation of affection cases. However, the vast majority of these actions are filed against the paramour of the cheating spouse.
Alienation of Affection in North Carolina
According to North Carolina alienation of affection law, the plaintiff must prove the following:
- Genuine love and affection existed between you and your spouse at the time the third party interfered;
- The love and affection were destroyed as a result of the third party’s wrongful and malicious behavior; and
- You (the innocent spouse) were damaged in some way.
You do not have to prove that your spouse had extramarital sex, only that the third party’s wrongful conduct led to the end of the marriage and the loss of affection. Proving a sexual relationship existed, however, increases the amount of money that can be recovered.
Criminal Conversation in North Carolina
Criminal conversation is a related law under which the innocent spouse must show that his or her spouse had sexual relations with a third party while the couple was married and not physically separated with intent to divorce.
Alienation of affection and criminal conversation lawsuits in North Carolina can be resolved out of court, in a jury trial, or in a trial before a judge (with no jury). A prevailing plaintiff may be awarded monetary damages, sometimes substantial.