If a third party interfered with your marriage and led to its destruction, you may have an alienation of affection claim against that third party. North Carolina is one of only a few states that still recognize this claim. At Skufca Law our Charlotte family law lawyers have extensive experience guiding clients through this complex and emotionally challenging legal claim. If you believe you might be in a position to make this claim, It is important to contact a skilled family law attorney as soon as possible so we can develop an effective case strategy.
To make an alienation of affection claim, you must show: (1) you had a marriage with genuine love and affection; (2) the marriage’s love and affection was alienated and destroyed; and (3) the defendant-third-party’s wrongful and malicious acts brought about the alienation of such love and affection.
For the first element, you must prove that a happy marriage, with genuine love and affection, existed between you and your spouse. Of course, there is no requirement that the marriage was a perfect one, but your spouse must have had “some genuine love and affection for you” before the marriage’s disruption. The second element is proved by showing “interference with one spouse’s mental attitude toward the other, and the conjugal kindness of the marital relation.” Essentially, the third party’s actions caused the breakdown of your marriage. The loss can be full or partial and can be accomplished through one act or a series of acts. For the third element, you must prove the defendant’s malicious conduct proximately caused the alienation of the spouse’s love and affection for the plaintiff spouse to support a claim for alienation of affection. However, the third party’s wrongful conduct does not need to be the sole cause of the alienation of affection in order for him or her to be liable, as long as it is the controlling or effective cause, even though there may be other causes which contributed to the alienation.
Notably, this claim is not available if you and your spouse separated prior to the third party’s inference, provided you had intentions that the separation remain permanent. You should also be aware that there is a statute of limitations for this claim, and you cannot bring this claim more than three years after the third party’s last action which you believe contributed to the alienation of affection.
Criminal conversation is a legal claim against a third-party that is similar to alienation of affections but requires more proof. To make a criminal conversation claim, you must show: (1) there is an actual marriage between you and your spouse, and (2) the third party and your spouse had sexual intercourse during your marriage.
Notably, there are also some unique aspects to criminal conversation claims that need to be assessed with counsel.
The money damages you can collect for alienation of affections and criminal conversation claims include the present value in money of the support, consortium and other legally protected marital interests lost through the defendant’s actions, including the injury done to health, feelings, reputation, and mental distress.
Punitive damages may be awarded in an action for alienation of affections where the conduct of the third party was willful, aggravated, malicious or of a wanton character. To establish that you are entitled to punitive damages for alienation of affections, you will need to present evidence of aggravating circumstances in addition to the malice implied by law from the defendant’s conduct in alienating the affections between the spouses which is necessary to sustain a recovery of compensatory damages. Evidence of sexual relations between your spouse and the third party will allow you to present the issue of punitive damages to the jury in a claim for alienation of affections.
Punitive damages may be recovered in an action for criminal conversation where the defendant’s conduct was willful, aggravated, malicious or of a wanton character. Whether you are entitled to punitive damages is a question for the jury.
Contact The Firm
If you have questions regarding alienation of affection and criminal conversation, contact the family law attorneys at Skufca Law today. Conveniently located in historic South End Charlotte.