An alienation of affection lawsuit is one that is brought against a third party outside of a marriage. Also known as “heart balm” and “homewrecker” torts, these cases usually involve cheating spouses and a lover (third party). An example of this would be a love triangle, where one spouse has been secretly cheating on the other with a third party.
The spouse who was cheated on could then file a lawsuit against the third party for alienation of affection. Less common, but still filed, are cases involving other third parties such as in-laws, clergy, therapists, and parents. Anyone outside the marriage who has interfered may be named a defendant and it is not required that the third party must have a romantic relationship with the spouse.
Alienation of affection lawsuits have been abolished by most states with the exception of the following seven:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
Divorce and adultery are much more common in modern society, so these types of lawsuits have dwindled. If you do not live in one of the seven states, it may still be possible to file a lawsuit; an experienced family law or personal injury attorney may best advise you on your options.
As the injured spouse, you must prove the following three issues:
- There was some degree of love between you and your spouse;
- This spousal love was alienated and destroyed; and
- The wrongful and malicious conduct of the third party caused or contributed to the alienation of affection.
Usually, you do not need to prove that the third party intended to destroy your marriage, only that the acts they engaged in would have a foreseeable effect on your marriage. You also don’t need to prove that your marriage was a perfect one, only that there was some amount of love between you.
If you are successful in your claim of alienation of affection, then you could be awarded compensatory damages. The damages can be to make up for any mental anguish, humiliation, and possible to punish the defendant for any clearly purposeful behavior.
Since alienation of affection claims are not as common as they once were, it is a good idea to consult with a family lawyer and/or a personal injury attorney. They will be able to help you determine whether or not you have a case, and can help you decide your best course of action based on your circumstances.