Picking up the pieces after a separation is always hard. It’s even more difficult when someone outside of the marriage causes the breakup.
If a third party causes one spouse to lose the affection of the other, it’s called alienation of affection. Surprisingly, North Carolina is one of the few states that recognizes this tort.
Alienation of affection is a type of lawsuit a married or formerly married person files against a third party for depriving them of their spouse’s affection. If you’re considering this type of lawsuit, we have the information you need. Read this comprehensive guide to gain a better understanding of alienation of affection in North Carolina.
Can I File an Alienation of Affection Lawsuit?
Alienation of affection is filed against a third party who negatively affects a marriage. A married person who pursues this type of lawsuit is saying the marriage didn’t end due to a natural decline in happiness or satisfaction. Instead, it ended because of the purposeful actions of another party.
For a successful alienation of affection lawsuit, you must prove the following:
- You had a valid marriage with genuine love and affection
- Someone alienated the affection between you and your spouse
- The actions of the third party was the cause of the alienation of affection
- This malicious behavior happened before you separated from your spouse
- The alienation led to your damages
- You must file your claim before the statute of limitations expires
Damages may include separation, dissolution of the marriage, economic loss, depression, and more. In an alienation of affection lawsuit, damages are typically determined based on the harm caused to the marriage and the affected spouse. The specifics can vary by jurisdiction and by case, but an experienced family law attorney can help you.
How Do I Show There Was Love and Affection in the Marriage Before the Affair?
To prove you had a loving marriage, you want to gather evidence. This may include:
- Letters or notes
- Other documents
Any proof that demonstrates the love and affection between you and your spouse is helpful. Make a list of loving behaviors and actions that occurred before someone interfered in your marriage.
This could include bringing you flowers, making a special meal for you, planning a party for you, surprising you with a gift, and more. Your family and friends can be witnesses if they saw evidence of a loving marriage before the third-party interference occurred.
How Can I Prove Another Person Destroyed My Marriage?
There are many reasons marriages fail. Alienation of affection is specific to marriages that would still be together if someone else hadn’t interfered. It’s not necessary to prove your spouse and the third party had a sexual relationship during your marriage.
Instead, you have to prove the actions and behavior of the third party destroyed the marriage or alienated your spouse’s love and affection for you.
Evidence of excessive phone calls, hotel rooms, private meetings, or illicit texts or emails can be sufficient. This type of evidence can prove the actions of a third party caused the demise of your marriage.
Criminal conversation is a civil claim alleging the defendant and the plaintiff’s spouse had sex during the marriage. Criminal conversation and alienation of affection are similar but there are some differences.
- The plaintiff must prove that sexual intercourse occurred between their spouse and the defendant
- It doesn’t matter if there was genuine shared love and affection in the marriage at the time of the affair
Alienation of Affection in North Carolina
The alienation of affection claim can be complicated with a variety of divorce law loopholes the defendant can use to dispute your claim. There are ways you can strengthen your claim, including:
- Proving you were in love with your spouse while you were married
- Proving someone’s intentional actions destroyed a once blissful marriage
- Proving the alienation caused you harm, job loss, depression, etc.
- Proving the third-party’s behavior led to the loss of affection in your marriage
- Proving your spouse began a romantic relationship before or immediately following your separation
Defendant Arguments in an Alienation of Affection Case
If you’re thinking of pursuing this type of case, it’s important to know how the third-party may build their defense. Generally, having strong evidence will help benefit the defendant in court. They may try to demonstrate:
Did your spouse begin an affair after you separated? If so, the defense could claim the defendant’s actions were due to loneliness since you were separated.
Lack of Affection
The defendant could claim there was no love or affection in the marriage. This could be effective if there is evidence of constant fights, previous separations, or other affairs.
Lack of Knowledge
The defendant could claim they were unaware they were having an affair with a married person. This could potentially be a strong argument for the defendant that could damage your case.
Consent could be a defense if you and your spouse engaged in couple swapping during the marriage. This evidence could show the plaintiff consented to adulterous affairs between their spouse and a third party.
What Damages Can Be Awarded in an Alienation of Affection Case?
To win an alienation of affection case, you must show you’re entitled to compensatory damages. Damages you’ve suffered could include the loss of property or your spouse’s income.
You could show you’ve suffered emotional distress that requires therapy or has affected your ability to work or learn. Compensatory damages reimburse or compensate the victim for actual losses.
If the third party’s actions were especially heinous, you could be awarded punitive damages as well. These damages are meant to punish the defendant for their wrongful actions.
Compensatory and punitive damages are monetary and require the defendant to pay compensation.
Hire the Best Family Law Attorney
Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult life transitions you can experience. If a third party interfered in your marriage, you may have a case for alienation of affection in North Carolina.
Pursuing this type of case can be stressful and emotional, and you want to be sure this is the right path to take. At New Direction Family Law, we understand how traumatic a divorce can be and are ready to help you.
Our experienced family law attorneys will advocate for you and protect your rights during this stressful time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.