Alienation of Affection Claim in Raleigh, North Carolina
Alienation of affection claims are lawsuits in which a married person sues a third party who has interfered with the marriage and caused the married person to suffer the loss of affection of a spouse.
In most cases, an alienation of affection lawsuit seeks compensation from a paramour who has had an affair with a married person’s spouse. But others also may be sued for causing alienation of affection including other family members, counselors, therapists, and religious leaders who have encouraged a spouse to divorce the plaintiff.
North Carolina is one of only seven states that still allow alienation of affection lawsuits.
To prove alienation of affection, you must show that the defendant wrongfully alienated and destroyed the genuine love and affection that existed between you and your spouse in your marriage.
A wronged spouse who brings an alienation of affection lawsuit may recover:
- Compensatory damages for losses suffered
- Punitive damages to punish the interloper
- Costs of litigation
At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, our compassionate Raleigh family law attorneys can help you pursue an alienation of affection claim under North Carolina law.
Attorney Charles Ullman focuses solely on family law issues and is recognized as a Board-Certified Specialist in Family Law by the North Carolina State Bar. Schedule a consultation with our knowledgeable legal team now to learn what actions you can take to hold a party who has damaged your marriage financially accountable.
Suing Under the Alienation of Affection Law in N.C.
Many wronged spouses we assist are at first unaware of the alienation of affection cause of action. North Carolina is a state where alienation of affection lawsuits are frequently pursued by men and women.
To be successful, the person filing an alienation of affection lawsuit must show that the defendant maliciously and wrongfully caused alienation of a genuine marital relationship between the plaintiff and their spouse.
An alienation of affection claim is often brought as alienation of affection and criminal conversation. The term “criminal conversation” refers to sexual intercourse between the paramour and the plaintiff’s spouse.
Proof of alienation of affection in North Carolina requires the plaintiff to show that:
- The plaintiff and his or her spouse were married and a genuine marital relationship with some degree of love and affection existed between them.
- The genuine marital relationship between the plaintiff and their spouse was alienated or destroyed. Alienation means the destruction or serious diminishment of the love and affection of one person for another.
- That the cause of the alienation of the genuine marital relationship between the plaintiff and their spouse was malicious and wrongful conduct on the part of the defendant.
Conduct is malicious when it is intended to destroy or diminish a genuine marital relationship or is recklessly indifferent to the likelihood that it will. Conduct is wrongful when it amounts to an unjustified or unexcused invasion of a genuine marital relationship.
The wronged spouse filing the alienation of affection lawsuit is not required to prove that the defendant’s conduct was the sole cause of the destruction of the marital relationship or that the conduct led to the married couple’s separation and divorce.
An alienation of affection claim must be filed within three years of the last act by the defendant to undermine the marriage. For a criminal conversation claim, this means no later than three years from the last time the paramour and the plaintiff’s spouse had sex.
An alienation of affection claim cannot be based on a relationship or activities occurring after the couple has physically separated with the intent of remaining permanently apart. Only people may be defendants in alienation of affection claims, not a business, church, or other organization.
Damages in an N.C. Alienation of Affection Claim
An alienation of affection claim seeks compensation for the wrong done to the plaintiff.
Such a lawsuit may demand:
- Compensatory damages, such as for the loss of the cheating spouse’s financial contributions toward the marriage and for the plaintiff’s emotional distress, which required therapy and/or diminished their earning ability.
- Punitive damages to punish the defendant for his or her actions. In a claim for alienation of affection, a plaintiff might introduce evidence of sexual relations between their spouse and the defendant to demand punitive damages.
- Costs of attorneys’ fees and expenses.
Damages are determined by the court if the lawsuit goes to trial. North Carolina courts have handed down several multi-million-dollar verdicts in N.C. alienation of affection cases. Many claims are settled without a trial.
To show the state of your loving marriage before the defendant’s intervention, you might submit as evidence testimonies of your relationship from:
- Letters, emails, or notes
- Saved voicemail
- Photos or videos
- Social media posts
- Statements from family and friends
Evidence of how the third party interfered with the marriage and changed your relations with your spouse might come from:
- Records of excessive telephone calls between the spouse and defendant
- Voicemail, texts, or email of an intimate nature or derogatory toward the plaintiff or the marriage
- Photos or videos of the two together
- Receipts indicating secret meetings or gifts
- Testimony of family and friends
In some cases, there might be more overt evidence of the relationship, such as an open affair, a pregnancy, or cohabitation.
Defense Arguments for Alienation of Affection
Should you be the defendant in an alienation of affection lawsuit, there are several general approaches to developing a legal defense against the claim. They include:
- Refuting the plaintiff’s claim. Some male-female relationships are platonic and supportive and do not cross the proverbial line. The defendant may be able to show through their testimony and the testimony of others that they have done nothing wrong. The defendant might show that a short-lived or long-ago affair was not a proximate cause of the dissolution of the couple’s marriage.
- Lack of intent. This would require the defendant to establish that they did not know the person they were involved with was married.
- Establishing that a genuine marital relationship did not exist. This might be based on testimony or other evidence showing constant fighting between the couple, lack of sexual relations, previous separations, or open talk of getting a divorce. An open marriage or one that acknowledged each spouse’s repeated infidelity would run counter to the idea of a genuine marital relationship as well.
- Establishing that the relationship occurred after the couple’s separation. If the couple had separated with the intention of remaining separated, this makes an alienation of affection claim invalid.
- Connivance. This requires the defendant to show that they were somehow tricked or manipulated into having an affair, so the plaintiff or the cheating spouse could then end their marriage.
Contact an Experienced Alienation of Affection Attorney in NC Today
If you think your marriage has been damaged by someone outside the marriage, you may have the basis for an alienation of affection claim. In N.C., alienation of affection cases may be used to recover financial compensation from someone who has destroyed your marriage.
These lawsuits can sometimes be used as leverage by a wronged spouse in divorce negotiations. A cheating spouse may agree to concessions in divorce negotiations to avoid having an affair become public or to protect a paramour’s reputation if they are still involved in a relationship.
The Raleigh family law attorneys of Charles R. Ullman & Associates can advise you about a potential alienation of affection lawsuit and pursue a claim on your behalf. Our legal team has helped countless clients throughout Wake County successfully handle the dissolution of their marriages, allowing them to move forward with their lives.
North Carolina is one of few states that still offers alienation of affection claims as a legal option in certain circumstances. Our attorneys can help you demand compensation. The law says you have a right to claim if your marriage has been destroyed by an interfering third party.
We stand ready to help you now. Call or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.