If you’re caught cheating can you be sued? In North Carolina you can
Discovering that your spouse has strayed outside your relationship is a uniquely painful experience – one that not many couples can overcome. While cheating sucks and often results in the dissolution of a marriage, infidelity is not a criminal offense. But in some jurisdictions, you can hit the paramour with an “alienation of affection” suit and make them pay for undermining or destroying your marriage.
If you’ve ever caught your significant other cheating, you’ll know all about the heartbreaking despair that comes with it. Infidelity throws you into a tailspin of poisonous thoughts, provoking you to go to great lengths to make your cheating partner and their paramour pay for the emotional torment they caused you.
Luckily for jilted spouses, some jurisdictions across America allow them to sue the third party for their role in weakening the love & affection between the married person and his or her spouse. The “heart balm” or “homewrecker” laws, which date back to at least the 18th century, permit the scorned spouse to sue the paramour for succumbing to the temptations of the flesh.
Cynthia Mills, who has argued at least thirty alienation of affections during her thirty-one-year career, told CNN the “tort began from old English law when women were viewed as property. In the same way that a man could sue for the theft of a horse, he could sue for the theft of a wife. Now, any spouse can sue regardless of their gender or their partner.”
The alienation of affections claim is repealed in several jurisdictions but the few states still recognize & allow to indict the marital interloper for tons of dollars in damages. These states include Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and North Carolina, according to CNN.
The alienation of affection lawsuit enables the wronged spouse to sue for damages incurred when a third party breaks up their happy home, but the third party doesn’t necessarily have to be the paramour who’s caught in a cheating scandal with the adulterous spouse.
The law could also apply to nonsexual interference of meddling in-laws who furnish suggestions or advice that lead to the dissolution of the marriage.
Going by the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, alienation of affection laws allows a spouse to sue a third party for purposefully interfering with the marital relationship. The lawsuit is usually brought against the lover the adulterous spouse is caught with, however, the suit may also be brought against an in-law or relative who has advised the defecting spouse to leave the marital relationship.
Marital infidelity is unfortunately as ancient as the institution itself, and “heart balm” torts, which allow for legal action to be taken for missed affections in marriage – though unconstitutional, in some eyes – seem to be rising by the year just like the infidelity occurrences. North Carolina’s Rosen Law Firm’s statistics show that the state sees roughly 200 alienation of affection claims a year.
But how can the scorned spouses sway their case and seek damages for emotional distress & mental anguish? According to Elle, for the alienation of affection claim to be successful, the plaintiff has to show that some degree of love existed in the marriage; that this existing love & affection was alienated & destroyed; and that the malicious conduct of a third party contributed to its loss.
Successful claims can have very real consequences for the martial intruders who are usually obligated to pay thousands, if not millions, of dollars in damages. In 2010, ABC News reported an alienation of affection case in North Carolina which resulted in the aggrieved wife winning a hefty $9 million from her husband’s alleged mistress.
So, the next time a married person tries to pursue you, think twice before acting on your desire as you not only risk breaking up a happy home but also getting caught in a nasty legal battle that could suck thousands out of your bank account.