Alienation of Affection & Criminal Conversation

Alienation of Affection & Criminal Conversation

Adultery can levy emotional tolls on families and cause significant financial problems. So, what options are available when an adulterous spouse causes a marital relationship to suffer?

Typically, individuals might either look to the help of a marriage counselor or seek a divorce. However, there might be another option. In North Carolina, when an adulterous spouse’s paramour jeopardizes the marital relationship, the spouse’s paramour could be liable for the damage done to the marriage.

North Carolina is one of a select few numbers of states that recognize tort claims for alienation of affection and criminal conversation.

Alienation of affection involves a wrongful act that deprives a married person of the affection and comfort of his or her spouse. In a cause of action for alienation of affections, the plaintiff must show that: (1) the plaintiff and his or her spouse were happily married and genuine love and affection existed between them; (2) the genuine love and affection was alienated and destroyed; and (3) the wrongful and malicious acts of the defendant produced the alienation of affection.

Criminal conversation is specifically related to the adulterous act. In a cause of action for criminal conversation, the plaintiff must show: (1) an actual marriage between the spouses; and (2) sexual intercourse between the defendant and the plaintiff’s spouse. Criminal conversation and alienation of affections are very similar except criminal conversation lacks the required intent necessary for alienation of affection claim.

These civil lawsuits are also often accompanied by a claim for punitive damages

Lastly, there is a three-year statute of limitations on the alienation of affection claim. Accrual for alienation of affection occurs when the wrong is complete. In other words, the three-year period begins to run when the alienation and destruction of love and affection are complete. Additionally, criminal conversation claims have the same three-year statute of limitations period. For criminal conversation, the three-year period begins to run on the date of the last act giving rise to the claim in the first place.


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