What are Damages for Alienation of Affection?
Did someone interfere with your marriage? Did you suffer the loss of affection of your spouse? What are damages for alienation of affection? If this happened to you in North Carolina, you may be able file suit and recover money damages.
Indeed, verdicts for alienation of affection cases in North Carolina make headlines. That is because interference in marriage lawsuits can involve striking sums of money.
North Carolina is also one of the few states in the nation that still recognizes the cause of action. Citizens of the Tarheel state defend marriage and when legally appropriate, are authorized to award both compensatory and punitive damages.
“Marriage is, after all, perhaps the most important institution in human history.”
– NC Court of Appeals – September 2017
Common law “heart-balm” torts are said to protect and preserve the sanctity of marriage. North Carolina takes that seriously.
There are two primary types or causes of action under the common law: Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation.AACC – Alienation of Affections Criminal Conversation
Plaintiff’s lawyers may use the shorthand term “AACC” when talking to clients about their case and possible damages.
Some divorce law firms in Charlotte, and throughout North Carolina for that matter, prefer to focus on things like separation, divorce, child custody and support.
Put simply, they’re not terribly interested in handling alienation of affections cases.
In fact, you may have encountered difficulties finding a law firm both experienced handling such cases and willing to undertake AACC claims for representation.
That’s not true of our law firm. We enjoy providing legal advice on complex AACC legal matters.
We are also willing to travel throughout North Carolina, guiding clients through difficult times.
“I’ve traveled extensively in North Carolina, helping people hurt by others. Some very good cases come from small, conservative judicial districts.”
– Bill Powers, NC Alienation of Affection Lawyer
If you’ve had trouble finding a lawyer willing to take on an alienation of affection case in your home town, give us a ring.
We’re willing to talk, conduct a “conflict check,” answer some basic questions, and figure out whether we can help.
While we cannot accept every matter for legal representation, we appreciate the opportunity to talk with potential clients and figure out whether a legitimate cause of action exists.
If we think we can help you, we’ll let you know. If we are unable to help, we’ll be up front and let you know that as well.Do Alienation of Affections Cases in NC Include Sexual Affairs or Intercourse Outside Marriage?
Some claims include allegations of an extra-marital affairs with sexual relations outside the marriage. That’s is generally thought of as the “criminal conversation” aspect of an AACC case.
One would be remiss in failing to note not every claim for interfering with a marriage results in filing of an actual lawsuit. And not all emotion affairs or affairs of the heart involve sex.
The overall number of cases for Alienation of Affection is largely unknown if not impossible to track.
Settlement Agreements (SA) between parties are common.
An “offer to settle and release” often mandate terms of non-disclosure and non-attribution. “Non-disclosure” terms prevent litigants from talking about what happened, at all.
“Non-attribution” clauses in an SA make it clear that the offending party (the interloper in a marriage) takes no responsibility for their bad acts and actions.
Anecdotal evidence suggests a substantial number of cases are settled privately, without the need for litigation.
As such, the number of cases settled outside of court likely exceed the number of complaints filed in Superior Court.
We strongly encourage anyone seeking information about alienation claims to keep things private and not talk about your personal business with anyone, including friends, family, and co-workers.
While it may feel good on an emotional level of confront the interfering party, that could adversely affect claims.
Indeed, it may work to effectively prevent any real chance of settlement or recovery.What is Alienation of Affection NC?
Alienation of Affection and Alienation of Affections are the same thing. There is no distinction under the family laws between “affection” and “affections.”
The terms are used interchangeably by lawyers.
Alienation of Affections (and Criminal Conversation) are both common law torts.
North Carolina, as one of the first 13 colonies, retains some vestiges of British law, which includes certain “common law” causes of action.
It is also one of the few remaining states in the country that recognizes damages may be recovered for interfering with a marital relationship.
One way to think of common law are the laws that everyone knows. Some laws are thought to be so basic, or “common,” that everyone knows them.
That differs from statutory law, which are laws set forth in the General Statutes of North Carolina.
Separation, Divorce, Alimony and Equitable Distribution, are referenced within Chapter 50 Divorce Laws in NC.
“AACC claims are made pursuant to good old-fashioned common law. Despite numerous challenges to the constitutionality of filing suit, our courts have consistently upheld the validity of such claims.”
– Bill Powers, Family Law Attorney
One may reasonably argue that marriage vows are indeed vows, where no one should “put asunder” a marriage where “two become one.”
It’s commonly known one should not get involved with a married man or woman.
Affairs with a married person, let alone having sexual relations with someone who is married, may result in an award of:
- Compensatory Damages
- Punitive Damages
- Costs of Litigation
A “tort” is a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (excluding breach of contract) leading to civil legal liability and damages.
An action for alienation of affection NC or affections is brought by an innocent spouse against a THIRD PARTY accused of being responsible for breaking up the marriage.
A lawsuit is brought against the interloper for damages.
“This the wrongful act of one person that interferes with the affection one spouse has for the other. This could be one a husband or wife is deprived of the others affection because they have fallen in love with someone else.”
To prove “alienation of affection,” the harmed spouse must show that the defendant wrongfully alienated and destroyed the genuine love and affection that existed between spouses in the marriage.
While normally this involves marital infidelity and an illicit affair, a defendant in a lawsuit can be someone who intended to cause the loss in affection and who was not involved in an extramarital romantic relationship, an “affair.”
That is rare, but not impossible.
For example, a mother-in-law or father-in-law could conceivably be sued for alienating the love and affection between the son-in-law and daughter-in-law spouses.
Most causes of action (lawsuits for alienation) involve suing an out of marriage “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” and a romantic affair.Related Legal Issues
- What is Alienation of Affection in North Carolina
- What is the Law on Criminal Conversation?
- Amazon Bezos World’s Richest Man After Divorce?
While related, alienation of affection and criminal conversation are technically different.
Alienation of Affection is a lawsuit for causing substantial problems with the marriage relationship. Criminal Conversation involves sex, specifically intercourse.
To be clear, criminal conversation is NOT a criminal charge.
An extra-marital affair that involves sexual intercourse outside of marriage generally does not result in bringing criminal charges in NC. People don’t go to jail for criminal conversation.
Any punishment for sex outside of marriage involves money damages.
North Carolina is one of the few states left where “heart balm” cases are still regularly filed and verdicts awarded.
They can result in substantial verdicts and large settlements. Each case is different.
Part of consulting with an attorney involves determining the value, if any, of a claim and a realistic assessment of recovering damages/compensation.Defenses to Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation
The term “extra-marital” tends to refer to affairs of the heart and sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage.
There are some relationships where a husband or wife does not necessarily mind their spouse having sex outside the marriage.
Indeed, in certain instances, it is very much encouraged.
One cannot sue as the “victim” if they participated in or otherwise encouraged the affair or sexual intercourse.
Similarly, there is a defense of “forgiveness.”
This area of the NC alienation of affections law is somewhat complicated and better addressed by speaking with an attorney.
Lawyers have repeatedly attempted to set-aside the practice of allowing suits for heart-balm claims on the basis they, “Violate the First and Fourteen Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”
North Carolina Alienation of Affection Laws
“Claims for alienation of affection and criminal conversation are designed to prevent and remedy personal injury, and to protect the promise of monogamy that accompanies most marriage commitments.”
– NC Court of Appeals
“A claim for alienation of affections is comprised of wrongful acts which deprive a married person of the affections of his or her spouse—love, society, companionship and comfort of the other spouse.” Darnell v. Rupplin, 91 N.C. App. 349, 350, 371 S.E.2d 743, 744 (1988).How to prove a North Carolina claim of Alienation of Affections
The aggrieved party, the Plaintiff, must prove
- That the spouses were happily married and a genuine love and affection existed between them;
- That the he love and affection was alienated and destroyed; and
- That the defendant caused the destruction of that marital love and affection.